The Westside Education and Training Center (WETC) was the site of a celebration on Tuesday, as three public entities committed to expanding job training and education programs for Westside residents.
Alamo Colleges, Edgewood Independent School District and the City of San Antonio signed a 10-year agreement that allows the Westside Development Corporation (WDC), a City-created organization, to relocate its office to the training center, which is located off Southwest 40th Street.
There, the corporation will work more closely with Alamo Colleges, the City, the District, and other public and private sector partners to form a strategy to fund future development at WETC. Additionally, the City, state and Alamo Colleges are teaming up to chip in $887,000 total for improvements at the training center, a former Edgewood elementary school.
Alamo Colleges established the training center in 2006. Current enrollment has exceeded the community college district’s expectations with more than 12,000 students taking part in occupational and technical training programs over the past 10 years. The center helps Edgewood community residents to achieve entry-level occupation skills or to expand their technical skills. Center services include associate’s degree courses that are transferable to four-year colleges. English as a Second Language, General Educational Development (GED) and bilingual education, also, is available.
The event included a ceremonial signing of the memorandum of understanding by Bruce Leslie, Alamo Colleges chancellor; Ann Lackner, career and technical education director for Edgewood ISD; and Leonard Rodriguez, president of the development corporation.
The City Council created the WDC in 2006 to help promote economic revitalization in a 7,700-acre area of the Westside.
Officials representing the Westside and the WETC’s community partners praised the refocus on collaboration among the training center and public and private sector supporters. They said they looked forward to empowering Edgewood ISD students and residents through the higher number of skills training and educational opportunities.
“San Antonio is one of the few major U.S. cities in the position to compete globally for high-paying and technologically advanced jobs,” Councilman Ray Lopez (D6) stated in a press release. “This strategic partnership between Westside stakeholders will not only strengthen San Antonio’s workforce, it will also ensure we are at the top of the list when companies identify a city to locate their operations and bring new jobs.”
State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26), one of the speakers at Tuesday’s event, said he was happy to help secure $8.9 million in the state budget for Alamo Colleges in the last legislative session. That dollar amount included $300,000 for upgrades at WETC to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The Edgewood ISD school board is excited to have finalized the Memorandum of Understanding creating this innovative partnership between Edgewood and Alamo Colleges,” stated Eddie Rodriguez, Edgewood ISD Board president. “This continued and renewed alliance with Alamo Colleges will provide not only our community, but our current and future students, with additional educational learning experiences for stronger and brighter futures.”
The City is adding $500,000, and Alamo Colleges is spending more than $87,000, to help with physical improvements at the training center. Planned upgrades include an elevator to help disabled individuals to access the structure’s second floor. The City has provided WETC with more than $970,000 in total funding since the center’s opening.
“What better way to take an old school building and repurpose it for the community, where the center works with employers to help residents go from lower paying jobs to higher paying jobs,” Menéndez said after the event.
The state senator, currently in a tight race to retain his seat, said the strengthened collaboration announced Tuesday will help Westside residents to realize new employment, academic and economic development opportunities.
“So often employers come to Alamo Colleges and say, ‘These are the trained people we need,’ and Alamo Colleges knows it can provide that kind of training,” Menéndez said. “The center also helps because it’s closer to many residents in the area. The closest community college for them is Northwest Vista College. These are actual classroom lessons being given (at the center).”
There have been no reports of graffiti or any other security issues at WETC, said Leslie of Alamo Colleges after the event, a testament to how much Westside residents and officials care about the facility and the work carried out there.
“The community really protects it. It says a lot about how the community perceives what’s going on here,” Leslie said. The Alamo Colleges chancellor said by physically improving the building, including adding an elevator, should promote a greater amount of use and accessibility among more community members.
Diana Falla, who has been a training center student, said during the presentation that she came from a family of nine and knows how hard it is to make financial ends meet, especially when a person lacks certain job skills.
The mother of three said she has enjoyed her working with instructors and other students at the WETC. The atmosphere inside the center has made her feel comfortable, leading to her successful participation in the programs. “I feel at home here,” Falla told the crowd.
“We owe it to (students) to make the place more hospitable, not just in staffing but in the way the building looks,” Leslie told a reporter later. He added there is sentiment among Westside residents and leaders that there should be a permanent Alamo Colleges campus of some sort for the Westside. The WETC could be a stepping stone to making that a reality.
“The long-term vision is to do that. How we get there, I’m not quite sure,” Leslie told a reporter.
“The community and he Westside Development Corporation have said that (WETC) is ultimately where (they would) like to see us go. That is part of our vision is to somehow get there, but we want to do it with Edgewood ISD and Westside Development Corporation, the City and other partners.”
Mayor Ivy Taylor did not attend Tuesday’s announcement, but said in a news release, that this enhanced job training and educational partnership falls in line with a long-range goal to improve the local workforce development pipeline.
“The Westside Training Center partnership is helping to create the San Antonio of tomorrow,” Taylor stated. “As we train residents for skilled positions in well-paying careers, we empower the community and develop human capital.”
Chris Martinez, board chairman for WDC, said the agreement represented”a great marriage and victory for the Edgewood community.”
“Today, the economic development efforts of the City and the Westside Development Corporation are partnered with Alamo Colleges’ workforce training programs and services,” Martinez stated. “The integration of these organizations at WETC will maximize resources, relationship and opportunities for all the Westside.”
*Top image: Westside Development Corporation President Leonard Rodriguez is the last to sign the memorandum of understanding. Photo by Scott Ball.