PHARR — The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently awarded Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA) a $332,567 Texas Industry Cluster Innovative Academies Grant to fund the district's new Welding Innovative Academy at PSJA Early College High School, servicing all students districtwide interested in a career in welding. The grant will help the school district purchase the necessary equipment to expand its current welding program. 

Through the PSJA Welding Innovative Academy, 36 rising juniors interested in pursuing a career in welding will engage in a one-year dual-enrollment program. Students will pursue a South Texas College Level I Certification and Associate Degree to prepare them for positions in the following areas: shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding and flux cored arc welding. In addition, graduate candidates will be eligible to take a welder performance qualification test in accordance with the American Welding Society.

There are more welding jobs in Texas than anywhere else in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. As reported by the American Welding Society, by 2020 newly trained welding professionals will be needed to fill positions throughout the nation. Certified and degreed welders may earn anywhere from $40,000 to $65,000 on average.

“What this grant is going to allow us to do is to cohort a group of students and do everything possible so that they not only earn certificates, but earn an Associate Degree,” said PSJA Career Technical Education (CTE) Director Griselda Quintanilla.

Currently, through a partnership with South Texas College, PSJA’s CTE Program provides comprehensive instruction that aligns post-secondary education with curriculum pathways, which includes the district's current Welding Program.

“This grant will help us continue to grow our PSJA ISD Collegiate Academies," Dr. Daniel King, PSJA Superintendent said. “It is our goal to create meaningful pathways to and through college for all students to graduate from our schools with higher education credentials, increasing the rate of college completion and a successful career. We thank the US Department of Education and TEA for helping us expand our work with these funds."