(Note: Updated Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.)
Upon arriving at KC, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was greeted with a smile.
He met the Rangerettes, whom he presented with a letter, congratulating them on their 75 year anniversary. Cornyn then sat down to have a discussion with college faculty, the Kilgore mayor, R.E. Spradlin III, and other leaders from the Kilgore and Longview area. The subject of the day was Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
Cornyn, a supporter of the STEM program, wanted to see what KC’s two-year programs were offering in the field, as well as what kind of job opportunities they afford.
“Congress just passed a workforce training reauthorization bill, recognizing that there are about 4 million jobs that employers are looking for trained work force,” Cornyn said. “So there’s work to be done, but not the people with the skills to do them.”
With so many job openings, KC is trying to help fill that void with technical classes. An experienced high-end welder with a 2-year degree has plenty of opportunities in East Texas. There are 200 job openings, starting off at $25 an hour, according to Bill Holda, KC president.
KC offers degrees in welding, diesel technology, and corrosion.
STEM is a program aimed at trying to fix the gap in the technical side of the workforce. With so many employers in need of workers but a severe lack of them, some high schools are preparing more students for a field of study. Students who take part in the program take courses with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and science. They also get a more hands-on approach with how they are taught, allowing them to be well versed in the practical use of the knowledge.
“This is really exciting. This is the common-sense answer to, ‘How do you improve people’s wages and income?’ The answer is to help them to learn new skills that will result in them earning a good salary,” Cornyn said. “So I think that this is, to me, one of the most exciting things in education because you have young people who necessarily do not always see the tangible benefit of their going to school or seems to abstract that you learn things like chemistry and physics, but this shows how those principles that you learn in school can be applied to preparing people to earn good money and well-paying jobs.”