Economic agency funds TSTC diesel tech program

HARLINGEN — Training for the Valley’s future is beginning today.

The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. this week approved $50,000 for a relatively new Texas State Technical College program which is turning out qualified diesel mechanics.

The grant still has some hurdles to clear before it becomes official, said a TSTC spokesperson. But that grant and a matching one from other state agencies will double funding for a program which consists of a three-month, five-day-a-week course that so far has graduated 32 students with competency in repairing and maintaining diesel engines.

Due to limits on classroom space and equipment used in the course training, only six students can participate in one of the classes. The HEDC grant should help expand the number of students who can take the course.

“These are the kind of things that are preparing our workforce for the things that are coming,” Raudel Garza, chief executive of the HEDC, told the board. “Some of those jobs will not be here in Harlingen. The Port of Brownsville is bringing in a couple of LNG plants and some of these skills will be very adaptable to some of the positions that will be open in that area.”

The diesel mechanic program was launched in October 2017 and 28 of the 32 students have been placed in jobs with salaries ranging from $11 an hour to more than $18.50 an hour.

Garza said that while most of the students have obtained jobs locally, some have left for Houston and the Bay City area to work.

The HEDC has about $75,000 a year which it can use to fund local training programs, and the $50,000 grant is intended to be a 50-50 match partnership with the Texas Industrial Partnership Program and the Texas Workforce Commission.