College of the Mainland is offering a “ready to work” grant program that is growing by leaps and bounds through its partnership with the Department of Labor.
The H-1B grant, also known as the Ready to Work Grant, was awarded by the Department of Labor to a consortium of four community colleges in October 2014, which included COM, San Jacinto Community College, Lee College and Brazosport College.
The program, under the direction of Anett King, H-1B ready to work manager, offers paid tuition, training, and resume and career support. King is responsible for the general oversight over the grant, strategic planning, budget and expense planning and monitoring.
“I make sure that we meet the grant deliverables and comply with all Department of Labor regulations pertaining to the grant,” King said. “In addition, I am responsible for running the Electrical and Instrumentation programs at College of the Mainland. The goal of the grant is to provide workforce training to long-term unemployed or underemployed individuals (more than six months unemployed/underemployed) as well as to employees (incumbents) who need more training to keep their job or advance in their job. Per grant requirements, the workforce training is focused on high-skill, high-growth occupations related to the petrochemical industry. The grant pays for tuition in those areas for individuals who qualify and assists with connecting successful program completers with job opportunities.”
COM offers tuition assistance for the National Center for Construction Education and Research Electrical, Instrumentation and Pipe fitting classes, welding, HVAC, mechanical maintenance/millwright, Computer Numerical Control and manual machinists, drafting, process technology, Lean Six Sigma and project management courses. In addition, the college also provides tuition assistance for OSHA 30 training for incumbents.
Karen C. Bratcher, who is a student in the program, is working toward her NCCER certificate in the electrical field. She currently works as an independent electrical contractor.
Bratcher is studying to obtain a journeyman license, and in two years would like to pursue a master’s license.
“I’ve learned so much through this program at COM,” Bratcher said. “Being around the field for a long time places you in a habit of becoming too familiar with processes. Being in a classroom setting and with an instructor that is patient, knowledgeable and industry experience, coupled with class participation, removes the cobwebs and opens the mind to new possibilities. Instruction through this course was instrumental toward my goal in passing my journeyman license test on the first try. I couldn’t have done it without the training. The hands-on training reinforced what was taught in books, which allowed me to retain the information better.”
Chis Hollman, H-1B project coordinator, is responsible for a myriad tasks, including recruiting, marketing and student enrollment into the program.
The program has 150 students currently enrolled. Interested individuals must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma. The grant ends in October 2018.
“The most rewarding experience is seeing lives changed for the better,” Hollman said. “When the students obtain both the desired training and obtaining employment that propels them to a successful career, I feel as though we’ve done our job by helping them help themselves.”
Students like Aziz Sanders, 27, said the decision was easy for him to make when he enrolled in the program.
Sanders, whose major is Mechanical Maintenance Technician, wanted to get away from scaffolding, wanted to learn a craft to maintain a permanent job/career, and wanted to learn a trade that he would enjoy doing for the rest of his life.
“This program has helped me to understand the language and environment a little bit more,” Sanders said. “With me not being very mechanically inclined before the program, it was eye opening. Millwright was almost like a foreign language to me, but now I am learning that language slowly, but surely.”