San Marcos CISD mulls STEM academy


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The Greater San Marcos area is hoping to attract more manufacturing and IT companies, and San Marcos CISD, Austin Community College and other stakeholders may step in to help improve the area’s workforce.

Representatives from various groups throughout the community provided the SMCISD board of trustees with a presentation Sept. 21 about an academy aimed at training district students and community members in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

“The bottom line is, we need more STEM workers in our country,” said Victor Garza, director of business retention and expansion for the economic development group the Greater San Marcos Partnership.

The academy would focus on training in four career areas, including mechatronics—a multidisciplinary field of engineering—welding, electrical and HVAC, as well as information technology and logistics.

Hector Aguilar, executive dean of continuing education for Austin Community College, said the program is intended to offer students high school and college credits as well as industry certifications that will help them get jobs.

“We want to meet the needs of local businesses and partner with local businesses. So for example if a business is brought into the area and they need a workforce, we would like to design a program built around that entity.”

SMCISD would be responsible for paying ACC professors to teach at the academy. The school district would also have to renovate a building—likely the ACC building on Hwy. 123 near Goodnight Middle School—to make the STEM academy a reality.

Superintendent Mark Eads said a very rough estimate indicated it would cost about $100,000 to compensate professors to teach at the academy. The cost of renovating the building would be a separate expense.

Mike Doyle, SMCISD career and technical education coordinator, said the program will focus on providing existing Central Texas companies and those considering relocating to the area with a trained workforce.

In the past year companies such as EPIC Piping and Amazon have announced plans to begin hiring workers in the San Marcos area. Mensor, a manufacturer of calibration technology, has been in San Marcos for decades, but has announced plans to bulk up its workforce.

“The idea of this program is fluidity,” he said. “We want to meet the needs of local businesses and partner with local businesses. So for example if a business is brought into the area and they need a workforce, we would like to design a program built around that entity.”

Cruz said training in these fields could potentially address one of the biggest concerns companies face when determining whether to expand or relocate in Central Texas: workforce.

“Whether it’s an existing business or a prospect looking to expand or relocate in the area, their No. 1 priority is, ‘Are we going to be able to find the employees we need?” Garza said. “Incentives always get the headlines but…workforce is the key deciding factor. A good analogy is incentives are the icing on the cake. Workforce is the cake.”

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