Holt Cat opened the new training facility on Thursday as part of the company’s two-pronged approach to develop more skilled workers for high-tech industries.
San Antonio has a share of specialized vocational schools that feed into local industries, such as the cooperative program between the Alamo Colleges and the aerospace industry, but some say that overall, a college-oriented culture has pushed vocational training in public schools aside.
"We have vocational programs at school districts across the city, but they’ve had less opportunity to reach a lot of kids because of graduation requirements. Because of the four by four math and science, those kids can’t take those vocational classes like they used to," Vahalik said.
Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Richard Perez said it’s an education system problem, and some students are falling through the cracks. Perez was asked whether the educational emphasis has swung too far toward goals of university degrees for everyone.
"I would say the pendulum hasn’t swung too far because clearly we’re not even doing enough in the sense that we’re not graduating enough students in San Antonio from college," said Perez. "So we need to find that happy medium that allows for whoever it is that’s going to high school, if they choose in their heart that they want to go to college, then the path is available to them to go to college. However, if whatever circumstance prevents them from going to college, whether they don’t want to go or whatever, a technical professional certification is available for them as well."
Perez said high-tech vocational jobs in San Antonio are high-paying, upwards of $60,000 to $70,000 dollars per year.
Holt Senior Vice-President Guy Clumpner said the sophistication of today’s caterpillar computer and GPS system calls for an equally sophisticated education among its workers.
"The PGA course up here in North San Antonio was the first time this Cat system was used in San Antonio," said Clumpner." So they went out with the global positioning satellite system on some of their heavy machinery and they knew exactly where to move the dirt and how to move the dirt. And so they didn’t have to do the survey, and it was much more efficient."
Holt is supporting local school districts’ technology programs with $54,000 in grants. NEISD will use its funding to bolster its electrical program at MacArthur High School.