Job Ready: Family ditches commutes, finds local job training

BROWNSVILLE — A Brownsville couple decided to finally do something about the long commutes to Corpus Christi and located state-funded job training through Workforce Solutions Cameron and the Cameron County Education Initiative trade school.

Favio Flores started training March 29 at the CCEI trade school in a building trades program that will take eight months to complete. He discovered the program while looking for work at the WSC office on Los Ebanos Boulevard. Through the same office, his wife, Crystal Bueno, located training in medical billing and coding that will take her nine months to complete.

The jobs are on WSC’s list of targeted occupations in Cameron County, meaning the training qualifies for state funds, said Pat Hobbs, executive director of Workforce Solutions Cameron.

The training also qualifies for assistance at CCEI, said Rita Hernandez, CCEI executive director. The organization is part of a philanthropic workforce development effort started by Brownsville native Mike Hernandez two years ago. The trade school is at 3140 E. Ruben Torres Blvd.

Flores is a 2010 graduate of Rivera High School. Soon after graduation, he headed for the refineries in Houston and Corpus Christi. He was working as a sandblaster and painter when he decided to try to ditch the commute, work closer to home and spend more time with his family.

The family has three school-age children and a toddler still at home. While the kids are at school, so are Favio and Crystal, and grandmother takes care of the baby. The children love the fact that everyone gets dressed and ready to go to school at the same time,” their parents said.

“When a family comes in, a case manager determines if they are skilled enough to be placed in a job, or if not, to be placed in training,” Hobbs said.

Favio was surprised at how smoothly everything went. Already, he can see opportunities in the building trades even while he is still in school. Crystal, who was working on her GED, found the training she was looking for in the medical field, she said.

Hobbs said the family is an example of the services WSC can provide. He hopes more people take advantage of what their hometown employment service has to offer, because a bunch of well-paying jobs are going to need to be filled in the not-too-distant future.

The task will fall to Hobbs and WSC to fill, potentially, 3,500 jobs now in the workforce development pipeline.

“New industries are coming to our area,” Hobbs said, mentioning the Big River Steel foundry announced by the Port of Brownsville, the bus refurbishing and final assembly operation announced by Greyhound, the SpaceX launch facility being built at Boca Chica Beach, and as many as 10 liquefied natural gas plants that are seeking regulatory approval at the Port of Brownsville.

“There’s going to be a wide range of skill-trade jobs that are going to be in very high demand, Hobbs said. “These are going to be high-paying jobs, and unless we are able to fill them, they are going to go to outsiders, or travelers. These companies have to get their plants built whether they use the local workforce or outsiders. We want those good jobs to go to our local people.”

Using Flores as an example, Hobbs said the workers he needs can “get trained up and ready to go in about eight months,” but right now he needs 3,500 when he doesn’t have 50.

“ I’ve got a two-year window to train up over 2,000 skilled construction workers, and with the steel mill, 3,500,” he said, adding that “one thing about our region is that we have a young, growing population. We have the people, they just need a little training.”