Texas Department of Agriculture to expand workforce training for rural communities

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email

AUSTIN, TX (Department of Agriculture) - Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced Wednesday funding is available for the Parallel Pathways to Success grant program (Parallel Pathways).

Parallel Pathways is designed to meet the workforce needs of rural Texas communities through the development of educational programs that provide workforce skills and job training. Students will concurrently earn their high school diploma and vocational skills certifications.

“Parallel Pathways helps communities strategically build a strong local economy by ensuring their educational resources are aligned with their workforce needs,” Commissioner Staples said. “Students and our state are more prosperous when Texans learn the skills they need to pursue successful careers, whether that is achieved through direct career training or a traditional college route. By ensuring our future workforce has the skills employers need, we are not only creating a qualified workforce but encouraging economic development in our rural communities.”

Demand for skilled workers continues to grow as the Texas economy flourishes. Individual grant awards will be no less than $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000. A minimum match of one dollar for every dollar requested must be provided by grant applicants. Applicants must demonstrate how their program will enable students to acquire the skills needed to compete in the local workforce.

“Thanks to the Parallel Pathways grant, students at our alternative high school campus can earn industry-recognized certifications and be better prepared to continue their education or enter the workforce,” said Les Hudson, director of career and technology at Bastrop ISD.

Since its creation in 2009, Parallel Pathways has awarded 12 grants and benefitted nearly 2,000 students across the state, including 201 students who have received technical certifications needed to enter the workforce.

“The Parallel Pathways program has helped start three technical programs that are being shared by multiple school districts,” said Mary Park, consortium director at the Northeast Texas Career and Technical Consortium. “The grant has removed barriers that, for some, would have prevented participation. Funds have been used primarily for tuition, books, toolkits and industry certification exams. It has been great to have access to funds that could be used directly for student aid.”

Accredited high schools, institutions of higher learning, chambers of commerce, economic development entities and other similar organizations located in rural Texas communities are encouraged to apply for a Parallel Pathways grant. Rural areas are defined as municipalities with a population of less than 50,000 and counties that have a non-metropolitan population of less than 200,000.

The deadline to submit applications is June 26, 2014. To learn more and download an application, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on the “Grants & Services” tab, or click here. For questions on the application process, contact TDA’s grants office at (512) 463-6908 or Grants@TexasAgriculture.gov.

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