San Antonio – The San Antonio City Council approved a half-dozen contracts worth $185 million Thursday that will allow the city’s long-awaited job training and education program, “SA: Ready to Work,” to get off the ground.
The city expects to place more than 28,000 people into either certification and degree programs through Ready to Work and subsequently get at least 15,700 of them into “high-quality,” in-demand jobs.
Along the way, participants will have access to support services and emergency assistance to help them finish their training, and then help with getting and staying in a new, full-time job paying at least $15 per hour with benefits.
City officials, particularly Mayor Ron Nirenberg, have championed the program as a “game changer” for the city and low-income residents.
“We know that there is great talent in our city, and we know that employers are searching near and far for employees. Now, we can connect the two for a win-win for San Antonio,” Nirenberg said from the dais Thursday.
Voters approved using a 1/8 cent sales tax to fund the program in November 2020. The tax is expected to bring in about $200 million before it expires at the end of 2025.
Although the city is bankrolling the program, it won’t be handling the day-to-day management.
Instead, city council approved $183.3 million worth of contracts with Workforce Solutions Alamo, Project Quest, Restore Education, and the Alamo Colleges District to handle the intake and case management process. Each contract is for three years, with up to three, one-year extensions.
Council members also approved a $100,000 contract with SA WORX to engage with employers and a $1.6 million contract with Creative Noggin for community outreach and marketing work.
The city has trumpeted its partnerships with local employers, who have pledged to hire program graduates and helped determine upon what kinds of training and jobs the program should focus.
“The businesses that have signed the pledge are going to be engaging in talent pipeline management process with us -- as we call it, demand planning -- as they begin to tell us ‘here are the occupations that are most critically in need. Here are the skill sets, the credentials that...need to have to obtain those jobs,’” said the city’s executive director of workforce development, Mike Ramsey. “And then we’ll take that information back to our training providers and ensure that there’s alignment that exist and build that catalog around that input.”
HOW MANY WILL IT HELP?
Though council unanimously passed the contracts on Thursday, at least one councilman was still wary.
“I still go back to, you know, we were talking about 40,000 people that we were going to run through this program, be successful and get higher paying jobs, so on and so forth,” said District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, referencing the number that was often used to pitch the program to voters ahead of the November 2020 election.
“Well, you know, now we’re looking at the intake is only about 38,000. And then when you consider dropouts that don’t complete the program, people that don’t get jobs or people that don’t get jobs at higher pay. You know, what’s my concern still is how many are we really going to help on our initial criteria that we’re going to help 40,000 people get higher paying jobs?”
The city anticipates 39,269 people will go through the intake process, but only 28,085 will actually end up in case management and enrolling in a program.
Out of that, the city is 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.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, though, doesn’t think these targets represent a any diminishing of what voters were promised.
The “promise of this program,” the mayor said, is that it will change the trajectory of families who have previously struggled to make ends meet. Enrollment estimations fluctuate, he said, but the city has more certainty now.
“This program now, as we put it together, is going to support a generation of change in terms of our economic trajectory as a city, and I think that’s something worth celebrating,” Nirenberg said.
To apply for SA: Ready to Work, you have to be:
- At least 18 years old when applying
- San Antonio resident
- Permitted to work in the United States
- Have a household income under 250% of the federal poverty guidelines ($33,975 for an individual, $69,375 for a family of four)
- Not currently enrolled in college courses
HOW TO SIGN UP
Residents who want to take part will be able to sign up through any of the four partners handling the program: Workforce Solutions Alamo, Project Quest, Restore Education, and the Alamo Colleges District.
Official enrollment is not expected to begin until April, but you can preregister through 311.