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San Antonio’s Ready to Work program ready for launch after final city council approval

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
The San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to approve contracts with several agencies who will run the SA: Ready to Work job training program.

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.

Fifteen months after San Antonio voters approved a sales tax to fund the job training program, the county agreed to award Alamo Colleges District, Project Quest, Workforce Solutions Alamo and Restore Education multi-million dollar contracts. They will oversee intake, training, and follow the progress of the applicants.

The program will train about 28,000 people in jobs that pay more than $15 per hour according to city officials. More than 70 employers have signed on in support of the program as of the beginning of February.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says SA Ready to Work is meant to provide more opportunity for residents.

“The opportunity that this creates — economic mobility for families who have been previously stuck in generational poverty — is extremely important for those families but it’s also important for us to change the economic trajectory of this city,” Nirenberg said.

The city council approved $183 million that would be split between the agencies: $102 million to Workforce Solutions Alamo, $26 million to Project Quest, $5 million to Restore Education, $49 million to Alamo Colleges and $1.6 million to Creative Noggin.

The program would be split up with about 60% of the money going towards tuition costs, 5% towards emergency funds, 12% to intake, 25% to case management, and 3% to administrative costs.

Initially the city was going to oversee the program but that changed as it was developed in 2021. Mike Ramsey, executive director of San Antonio’s economic development department, said each of the entities will take on different aspects of Ready to Work.

“For instance, Alamo Colleges is a training provider. However we’re contracting them today for case management and intake services for SA: Ready to Work,” he said. “So an individual being case managed by Alamo Colleges could be attending UTSA or the University of the Incarnate Word, or many of the other local training providers as they help them matriculate through the program.”

Project Quest’s CEO David Zammiello said his organizan is receiving the $26 million to evaluate and intake program applications.

“What your educational situation is, what their life situation is, we’ll do a full intake assessment to make sure they’re ready for the program, to make sure they have the basic fundamental skills to enter into a training program, we’ll then matched into the right training institution organization make sure they get the funding,” Zammiello said.

Those who complete Ready to Work could end up with a certificate or college degree.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the SA: Ready to Work in November 2020 as part of a package to use an expiring sales tax that was geared towards aquifer protection and linear creekway development. The tax would generate the $180 million for the program over five years and then shift to VIA Metropolitan Transit, which votes also approved as a separate ballot issue.

Nirenberg had originally slated the sales tax to be shifted to a massive transportation plan, when the pandemic hit, priorities changed.

Now SA: Ready to Work may not be a pandemic job loss panacea, but it’s designed to be a stepping stone for people to get a headstart on a new career path that may have been previously unattainable. When it was initially proposed, the city had said it would train up to 40,000 people however that number was scaled back to the 28,000 enrolling in training.

Applications for SA ready to work will open in April. Those who wish to gain more information now can call the city’s 3-1-1 line.

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