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Mayor Ron Nirenberg defends struggling Ready to Work program ahead of funding request

Secretary Walsh toured the facilities of St. Phillip's College Monday alongside organizers of Ready to Work
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh toured the facilities of St. Phillip's College alongside organizers of Ready to Work.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg defended his Ready to Work program during Tuesday’s State of the City days before city staff plan to ask the San Antonio City Council to approve additional funding for two new job training pilot programs through the workforce development initiative.

Nirenberg said patience would be necessary for Ready to Work to succeed.

“The program’s engines are just revving up,” he said. “We’re now entering uncharted territory as we create a coordinated workforce development ecosystem at a scale unparalleled in our city’s history — maybe in any city’s history.”

The $200 million Ready to Work program approved by voters in 2020 and launched in 2022 has fallen far short of a major measure of success — the percentage of workers who land a “quality job” within six months of completing their training. Only 45% of the 1,207 participants have done so, almost half of the 80% goal the program set.

There are currently 6,745 people enrolled in Ready to Work.

"Training for new careers and finishing degrees is vital, but it will take time,” Nirenberg said during his address. “One person at a time."

San Antonio’s $180 million job training program SA Ready to Work is nearly ready to open applications after the San Antonio City Council approved several final contracts Thursday.

Ready to Work staff will ask the city council on Thursday to approve using $3.1 million in set- aside Ready to Work funding for two new pilot programs, the Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) and On the Job Training (OJT) programs.

Both programs would give city dollars to local employers, including large companies like StandardAero and Toyota subsidiary Toyotetsu Texas Inc, as well as small businesses, so that they can train workers while they’re on the job. Workers’ pay will also be partly subsidized by the city while they’re being trained. IWT will focus on workers who have been employed at a company for longer than six months, and OJT will focus on workers who have been hired within the last six months.

There is no requirement that employers who receive city dollars to train and pay workers in the IWT and OJT programs retain those employers for any length of time once training is complete.

33 employers and 1,387 workers will be participating in the two programs, which will last for six months if city council approves the pilots.

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