City says employer participation key to $200M job training program

Voter-approved SA:Ready to Work program expected to start in April

Voter approved SA Ready to Work Program may help less people than expected

SAN ANTONIO – As the City of San Antonio launches the sales-tax-funded workforce training program, which voters approved in November 2020, officials say employers’ participation is vital to its success.

More the 70 employers have signed onto a pledge supporting the upcoming “SA: Ready To Work” program, which will provide tuition for certification programs or associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in high-demand fields. The goal of the $200 million program is to help participants get and keep jobs paying at least $15 an hour with benefits.

The program will include wraparound support, emergency assistance, and job placement and retention services. It’s open to San Antonio residents who aren’t currently enrolled in college and whose household income is less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines -- $33,975 for an individual or $69,375 for a family of four in 2022.

Though the program isn’t expected to start until April, the city says residents can preregister by calling 311.

City officials and business leaders gathered Monday on the City Hall steps to herald its launch.

Executive Director of Workforce Development Mike Ramsey told KSAT he’s “extremely optimistic” about the program’s success.

“I think the employer response has been key,” Ramsey said. “You saw here today the very, you know, solid, high-quality employers that have been long-standing stalwarts of this community, standing behind this program. That gives me the confidence that we’re going to have the alignment necessary for what their jobs are, so we can build the program that when people finish, we haven’t built the bridge to nowhere. We’ve built them a bridge to a good-paying, high-quality job.”

The city is coming off of the debatable success of a previous workforce training program, “Train for Jobs SA.”

Approved by the city council in June 2020 to combat the sudden spike in unemployment, the $65 million program was focused on job training and high school equivalency programs. It did not include degree programs as Ready to Work does.

Train for Jobs SA, however, included stipends for its participants, whereas SA: Ready to Work will not.

The goal of Train for Jobs SA, according to a city document from July 2020, was to serve up to 10,000 people by September 2021, with 75 percent of them finishing training programs.

As of Jan. 31, the city was still conceivably on track to meet that benchmark, although later than expected. Just 2,257 people had actually completed their training program, while another 2,383 were still in progress. Another 2,933 were pending enrollment in a program.

Altogether, that would be 7,575 people somewhere along the training pipeline.

Another 411 people dropped out of their programs, and 2,323 people completed the preliminary intake process but have not enrolled in a program.

Though enrollment for Train for Jobs SA closed at the end of 2021, training will continue through 2022.

Asked about the program and how its outcomes inform his expectations for Ready to Work, Mayor Ron Nirenberg told KSAT, “We need to continue to invest in human capital in our city, to close the gap between skills and the employment opportunities that are available in our city. If we don’t do that, we’re going to continue to suffer with the lack of economic mobility that we’ve seen over years.”

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.