Olga Wilson has been laid off twice in the past three years. She now has a fresh start and high hopes of landing a decent-paying job in a new direction: manufacturing.
"I'm mechanically-inclined. I thought, 'I can do this.' I started taking the course and found I can do this," she said.
Wilson was among the first 14 to graduate Monday from a new job training program called "Just in Time." It's a collaboration among Workforce Solutions Alamo, Alamo Colleges and San Antonio Manufacturers Association.
For 18 weeks, unemployed high school graduates got federal grant-funded training in key manufacturing skills at the St. Philips Southwest campus. The purpose of the program was to address a growing hiring gap in the manufacturing industry.
Locally, manufacturers have some 1,500 positions they cannot fill.
"We don't have the skilled workforce that people walk out of high school and say, 'I'm ready to go into a manufacture position,' because they have no training," said Javier Garcia, branch manager for Regal Plastics.
So this program was created to put training on a fast track.
"If this stretched out over a normal community college program, this training would take a year to complete, and we completed it in 90 days," said Patrick Newman, executive director of Workforce Solutions Alamo.
Ricky Brooks, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the first Gulf War, said the program was an opportunity he could not pass up. His background is customer service training, but after moving to San Antonio, decided he should switch fields.
"There's a need for this type of skill," Brooks said. "That was something very important to me, not just to have a skill, but to have an in-demand skill."
The graduates are guaranteed job interviews with local manufacturing companies.
Brooks has already landed a job, which he was to begin the day after graduation.
While this is the first graduating class, the goal is to graduate as many as 200 people this year.
Similar programs with IT and aerospace industries are in the works as well.