“One thing they have gotten out of this, according to one manager I spoke with, is the ability to better make their arguments and stand up for their opinions,” said Jennifer McNelly, senior vice president of The Manufacturing Institute, as she recently spoke to a group of workers, employers and business leaders in Mission. “And that’s a good thing. This program has given you the voice to communicate and diversity in thought creates better manufacturing.”

The program that gave 47 Rio South Texas workers a voice is the English for Advanced Manufacturing and the Skilled Trades Initiative. South Texas College partnered with The Manufacturing Institute, the Texas Workforce Commission and Sed De Saber to implement an English language proficiency program to boost literacy, educational attainment and career advancement for regional rapid response, advanced manufacturing workers. Participants now have the foundation for advancing their careers in the industry.

“We knew we needed you and your skills to grow this industry and we knew this project would take off here in Texas, where manufacturing is truly growing and thriving,” said McNelly. “But we as manufacturers can’t continue to be successful without ensuring our teams have the skills to advance. We wanted to engage you in our businesses and you rose to the challenge. We are so proud of your willingness to learn. Thank you for your courage and commitment.”

Rio South Texas companies AMMEX, EMU Plastics, Hi-Tech Plastics and Palmer Steel allowed their employees to participate in the pilot program, which also included companies and participants in Laredo, San Antonio and Houston. STC’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, an affiliate of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative, managed the trainings for the workers from McAllen- and Mission-based companies.

“Our vision is to be an advocate for our regional workers by bringing them exciting programs and this was certainly an exciting opportunity to be the first in the nation and set the example for the rest of the 1.8M manufacturing employees in the United States,” said Wanda Garza, executive officer for NAAMREI. “We are proud to give you this opportunity for you and your families to grow and prosper in the manufacturing field. It’s quite an accomplishment to handle a full time job, a family and responsibility of learning a language.”

The training consists of an interactive, technology-based curriculum derived from the proven and innovative language learning program, Sed de Saber. The program ensures efficient and functional acquisition of workplace communication skills, such as understanding directions and important health and safety measures, using proper manufacturing vocabulary, and reading and interpreting administrative forms.

“We always look forward to working with STC and its partners on innovative programs because we are a learning organization,” said Trung Nguyen, Hi-Tech Plastics plant manager. “We are very proud of the work put in by our employees.”

Of the 47 employees that participated in the program, 30 were female, paving the way for growth and advancement for women in regional manufacturing.

“I was excited about the program because it was a chance to learn new skills and advance in my career,” said Sanjuanita Lopez, program graduate and Hi-Tech Plastics machine operator. “Completing the work has given me a good feeling of accomplishment, not only as a worker, but as a woman in manufacturing.”

For more information about the program or South Texas College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing call 956-872-6197 or visit http://manufacturing.southtexascollege.edu/iam/. For more information about The Manufacturing Institute call 800-814-8468 or visit http://institute.nam.org. For more information about the Texas Workforce Commission visit http://www.texasworkforce.org/.