Council poised to put voter-approved job training program to work

Staff present outline of $183.3M SA: Ready to Work program at Wednesday council meeting

San Antonio – City council members expressed broad support and anticipation on Wednesday for the upcoming $183.3 million job training program, SA: Ready to Work.

In a presentation to council members, city staff laid out the basic structure of the program, which is expected to place more than 28,000 people into either certification and degree programs and result in at least 15,728 people into “high-quality” jobs in in-demand fields.

The city says there will be a 60/40 split between the certifications and degree programs.

In the November 2020 election, 77 percent of voters approved collecting a 1/8 cent sales tax through December 2025 to fund the workforce training program, which currently has an estimated budget of $183.3 million. City council still needs to approve a handful of contracts for the organizations that will actually run the program, which it is expected to vote on later this month.

Once they do, San Antonio residents will be able to apply for the program sometime in April, though preregistration is already available by calling 311.

Staff have already trumpeted partnerships with employers, who have helped guide what kind of training should be supported by the program.

Workforce Solutions Alamo created a list of targeted industries, like health, cybersecurity, construction, and manufacturing. Within those industries, an advisory board approved a list of 73 occupations.

The city says residents who participate will get:

  • Tuition for certifications, associate’s, and bachelor’s degrees in target industries
  • Wraparound support services and emergency assistance
  • Job placement and retention services

Eligibility requirements for the program, include:

  • At least 18 years old
  • San Antonio resident, permitted to work in the United States
  • Not currently enrolled in college courses
  • Household income less than 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines - $33,975 for an individual or $69,375 for a family of four in 2022.

How Many?

Voters were told the program would serve up to 40,000 people over four years, helping them get job training or complete their two or four-year degrees in in-demand fields.

But now that the program is ready to launch, the benchmarks the city is presenting are lower.

The city anticipates 39,269 people will go through the intake process, but only 28,085 will actually end up in case management enrolling in a program.

Out of that, they are aiming for at least a 70 percent completion rate - about 19,660 people.

From there, the city wants at least 80 percent of those who completed a program - about 15,728 - to find a job within six months, and at least 80 percent of that number - about 12,582 - to still be in that job a year later.

Mike Ramsey, the city’s executive director of workforce development says budget constraints are keeping them at the 28,000 number for enrollment, but he believes the program could still make a difference.

“Even if we only hit the floor and 16,000 workers are trained with the skills that are going to help them to achieve economic stability in today’s financial climate, in today’s economic climate, I think it’s going to move the needle enormously here for the city of San Antonio,” Ramsey said.

SA: Ready to Work VS. Train For Jobs SA

The city is still winding down the workforce development program it started in 2020, Train for Jobs SA. Though enrollment closed at the end of 2021, training is still going on.

But while Train for Jobs SA was focused on shorter-term training, SA Ready to Work includes opportunities to complete college degree programs.

However, Train for Jobs SA included stipends for participants - $11.3 million spent through the end of 2021 - while SA Ready to Work will not.

Staff say they learned a lot of lessons from the program that can be applied to SA: Ready to Work, such as the need for targeted marketing and outreach, centralized data management, and aligning training with jobs that are in demand.

The success of the Train for Jobs SA program has been debatable. It started with a goal of serving up to 10,000 people by September 2021 and seeing 75 percent of them actually complete training programs.

As of Jan. 31, a little over 10,300 had completed the preliminary intake process, but only 5,051 had actually enrolled in training or high school equivalency programs. Another 2,900 others had enrollment pending.

Only 2,257 participants have completed their training, and only 1,140 of them have been connected with a job. Furthermore, just 643 percent of them are earning at least $15 an hour.

Staff have said that will be the minimum for an approved job through SA: Ready to Work, and that $15 an hour is “not our goal.”

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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