Local industry representatives, Stephenville Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd and Stephenville High School principal Travis Stilwell met with Lori Foster of Ranger College and Pete Cooper, co-owner of SenseAbility, Inc., last week to discuss a program being proposed for the high school that would better arm future SHS graduates with the skills needed to be valuable members of the local workforce.

The proposed program is geared toward students who will seek local jobs from factories and manufacturing plants than attend college.

“We would like all graduates of the district to be college ready, but that is not the reality,” Floyd said. “They are not all going to college and it is our duty to prepare those students for the workforce. We want to partner with the plants in Stephenville to give them the best employees possible and also give the kids a chance to stay in town and be successful, productive members of the community.”

Key players from FMC Technologies, PAL-CON Ltd., Caporal Industries, Mangrum A/C and Easter Heat & Air showed up in support of the program and offered insight into the difficulties each of the companies face when it comes to hiring and keeping skilled workers. Each agreed that if the price was right, they would offer financial backing to make the program possible including brining trainers and equipment from their buildings to the high school for detailed, specialized instruction.

SenseAbility is a company co-owned by Cooper that offers industrial training to students at state and federal institutions such as Texas State Technical College and Ranger College. “We have contracts with the state and federal governments for industrial training,” Cooper said. “My partner and I were driving around one day and started thinking - we drive all over the state and train, why not right here in our own backyards? Why not offer a program that will benefit the local workforce and employers?”

With those simple questions Cooper went to Floyd and presented the idea that has now grown to round table discussions and may, as early as August 2009, lead to a new program aimed at sustaining our local economy and future generations of wage earners.

Students would have the option of applying to the program, which will specialize in industrial trades such as industrial electrical, heating ventilation and air conditioning, metal trades and welding. The program would consist of approximately 200 classroom hours and could also offer work co-op opportunities.

“Work co-op is a very important part of the deal, it will help the kids see the true value of the program,” Stilwell said. “If the upper level students can come in for a half day and receive specialized training and then go out and make some money in the afternoon, they will see first hand the value of the program. So, I would like all of you (industry leaders) to consider employing kids in the afternoon as a part of the program.”

While the program is only in the research and development phases, all in attendance at the meeting agreed that implementing the courses would benefit the community as a whole.

The planning and research will continue. Stilwell said that he would get to work with the district’s curriculum director, Joyce Anderson on an innovative course application, which will allow students to participate in the program and still obtain core credits required for graduation. In addition, Foster will work on researching grants to further fund the program. Cooper plans to pair with local industry leaders to develop curriculum that will best benefit local factories.

For the program to be a complete success, there are only a few factors missing from the equation.

“To make this work, we have got to have the backing of all of our local industries,” Cooper said. “Community support and involvement will also help bring it all together. We are proposing this for the future of Stephenville, our kids and our economy.”