MOU entails TSTC providing training at port

A proposed memorandum of understanding between the Port of Brownsville and Texas State Technical College in Harlingen regarding an initiative to develop workforce training programs has ruffled feathers at Texas Southmost College.

The Brownsville Navigation District at its regular board meeting Wednesday tabled discussion on the MOU, which also involves the Texas A&M University System. The workforce training would be for industrial companies that are located at the port or might be in the future.

TSC President Jesus Roberto Rodriguez said he was pleased with the decision to table the matter and looks forward to discussions with the navigation district.

Wednesday morning, TSC officials held a press conference in which Rodriguez argued that his institution “should be the Port of Brownsville’s primary partner for workforce training” based on the community college’s “experience, capacity and local expertise.”

He said TSC is more than qualified to provide excellent workforce training to local industry.

“Over the past two years, since my appointment as Texas Southmost College president, the board and I have assembled a powerhouse team to deliver educational and workforce services for our community,” Rodriguez said.

He noted that the college is “prepared to offer training at our facilities, or at our business partners’ location.”

Eduardo Campirano, port director and CEO, said in advance of the BND meeting that the MOU “isn’t exclusionary or exclusive,” meaning it doesn’t preclude TSC from also pursuing agreements to provide training to companies at the port.

“We have an MOU,” he said. “It’s fairly simple. It’s straightforward: To engage in a discussion of workforce training. It’s on the agenda for consideration. We’ll see what happens. It’s really not much more than that.”

Campirano said the MOU grew out of a recent workforce summit at the port attended by Texas A&M, which according to the agreement would provide training through its Texas Engineering Extension Service.

The summit addressed impending workforce needs if the port becomes home to a growing number of industrial employers, potentially including liquefied natural gas facilities and a steel mill. Campirano said Texas A&M proposed offering its workforce training services to the port.

“We had a meeting with the chancellor,” he said. “The discussion was very positive. Here was an opportunity to bring another service provider into the area.”

Mayor Trey Mendez, who served as a TSC trustee for a number of years before becoming mayor, also spoke at the TSC press conference. He said his understanding is that talks are underway regarding construction of training facilities to be paid for by the port and built on port land. Since TSC and the port both rely on local tax dollars to one degree or another, TSC should at least be considered by the port as a training partner, Mendez said.

“I believe that prudence dictates that they should also have discussions with the local community college first,” he said. “I’m not going to second guess the members of the (BND) board, because they’re elected to make their own decisions. I just want them to consider all the options before making a decision.”

Campirano reiterated that signing an MOU with TSTC and Texas A&M does not mean TSC is locked out of training opportunities at the port.

“There is nothing that says (TSC) will not be considered or they can’t participate,” he said. “There’s nothing in the agreement that excludes them.”