TSTC and Nolan County Companies Celebrate TWC Skills Development Grant

(SWEETWATER) – Leaders from Texas State Technical College, the Texas Workforce Commission, Buzzi Unicem USA and United States Gypsum Corp. gathered Wednesday to commemorate a $419,590 Skills Development Fund grant aimed at improving workers’ skills.

The grant will create or upgrade 185 jobs and provide mechanical training in bearings, lubricants and other components, operator assessment care and specialized emergency response training. Both Buzzi Unicem and United States Gypsum Corp. will receive more than a combined 7,000 hours of business technical training.

The regional economic impact of the grant is expected to be $4.2 million, said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez III, who presented the check.

TSTC in West Texas Provost Rick Denbow said it is critical for local industries to be able to access workforce training through TSTC. He said the technical college must communicate with industries to see what changes there are to ensure that students who graduate are employable.

Alvarez commended TSTC for its involvement in economic development.

“It’s the college of Texas,” said Alvarez. “They listen to you and ask you what they can do to serve constituents.”

Ken Becker, executive director of the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development, said some of Nolan County’s blue-collar industries are changing colors.

“You have to have a lot of technical training to do their jobs,” Becker said.

United States Gypsum Corp. in Sweetwater has more than 230 employees who produce gypsum wallboard. Jeff Grimland, plant manager, said the company has expanded the range of training that workers can receive and given raises sooner because of the Skills Development Fund grant.

He said employees can discover more problems to repair on routine maintenance days because of the training. And, he said, employees can see that the company is investing in them.

“USG has received much-needed training that improves efficiency and the bottom line,” said Grimland.

Buzzi Unicem USA in Maryneal has more than 120 employees working with cement manufacturing.

The Skills Development Fund has been used since 1996 to localize workforce training for companies. This enables companies to work directly with local partners to develop training tailored to employees’ needs. The competitive grant has assisted more than 4,200 employers statewide, according to the TWC.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.