SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio expects its highly-touted job training program to fall far short of its first-year targets.
But supporters say the city will get the same results in the long run, even if it takes a few extra years.
The Ready to Work program is aimed at helping participants from struggling San Antonio families get the necessary training to get high-quality jobs in on-demand fields. Voters gave the go-ahead to fund it with four years worth of sales tax dollars in November 2020, and the city finally announced the opening of enrollment in May 2022.
With Ready to Work less than a year old, only about 320 people have actually finished their respective training programs. Most people enrolled in training are sticking with it, city statistics show; they just simply haven’t finished their courses.
But despite getting nearly 13,500 applications, the program is not hitting its goals further upstream in the pipeline.
Instead of interviewing 9,817 people in the first year as it originally expected, the city now only expects to interview 7,086 by June 30 - a 28% drop. And it only expects to get half as many people enrolled in a certification or degree program - 2,882 instead of 5,758.
Many of the applicants haven’t followed up, said City of San Antonio Executive Director of Workforce Development Mike Ramsey, and others aren’t eligible.
While thousands are still going through the intake process, Ramsey said the city’s partners that handle that portion are “increasing their efficiency of moving people through the pipeline.”
He also acknowledged that the city has opened the program to include people already in college and members of the military community because there has been less interest from eligible applicants than expected.
But Ramsey said the yearly targets don’t really matter; it’s the number of people placed in jobs at the end that counts. He and supporters like Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who led the drive to sell voters on Ready to Work, maintain the city will get there.
“The impact of the program is not going to change. It will just take a little bit longer, a year or two longer, than we we initially thought to get that many people through the pipeline,” Nirenberg said.
The promise of exactly how many people the program will help has morphed over time, however.
Estimates for the program ahead of the election focused on 10,000 people getting training every year of the four-year program, for a total of “up to 40,000″ people served.
But after voters had approved the plan, the city presented a different picture: 39,000 people interviewed, 28,000 enrolled in approved training, and 15,600 placed in quality jobs.
It’s a discrepancy District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry pointed out again during a city council meeting Wednesday.
“I don’t think we were upfront with folks, and all of a sudden those numbers just kind of changed,” Perry said.
Nirenberg and other supporters, though, have focused on the positive change the program could create for participants.
The 103 people placed in jobs so far are earning a median rate of $18.90 per hour. Nearly half of them are truck drivers.
Angelica Hooks is one of the few to have completed the program. Previously a stay-at-home mom, Hooks had wanted to take a medical coding course but had been put off by the roughly $3,000 price tag.
However, she said she learned about the Ready to Work program, which covered the cost of both a self-paced course and certification exam.
“The initial meeting, when I learned about the program and what it entailed and what was included and the kind of assistance that I would get, I was like on the verge of tears,” Hooks said. “Because it was just...I felt like I just needed a little bit of help to get back onto the track that I intended to stay on.”
Now, Hooks has been hired by a local cardiology clinic at a starting rate of $22 per hour. In a few months, Hooks said she will be able to transition to working remotely.
“For the people that it does work for, it’s a gift,” she said.