Still working out: Lamar State College’s mission not wavering much in 100 years

There’s nothing new about workforce training at Lamar State College Port Arthur.

It’s why the school was formed 110 years ago.

Ben Stafford, dean of workforce and continuing education, told the Port Arthur Rotary Club on Thursday that LSCPA is continuing that mission of developing a robust, qualified, local workforce.

Consider this timeline: Three years after Arthur Stilwell founded Port Arthur in 1898, oil was discovered at Spindletop. Refineries now owned by Valero and Motiva were developed between 1901 and 1903 and the college started six years later — with missions to train workers; among them, those working in oil.

Stafford said while the campus itself has changed a lot, the mission has not. They are still training oil workers there — others, too — today.

Nowadays, he said, his job includes finding the unemployed to prepare them for jobs with the highest possible wages or to find the underemployed and boost them into better-paying jobs.

His side of the workforce preparation involves providing non-credit, certification courses in training areas for jobs such as commercial truck drivers, bus drivers, dump truck drivers or industrial jobs in carpentry, scaffolding, sheetrock, welding and more.

Those jobs provide living wages and sometimes better.

He said Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey enabled Lamar Port Arthur to help prepare many unemployed or underemployed people for the building trades, where they could help rebuild the city of Port Arthur. They were trained through his courses for skills that included framing walls, hanging sheetrock and more.

Some left for industrial jobs; many enrolled in construction site carpentry courses of nine-weeks duration and many remain employed by residential and commercial construction companies now. Such craft jobs, he said, will remain in immediate demand locally.

“We have to change constantly,” he said of the campus, with worker training remaining agile as local workforce needs evolve.

Most recently, LSCPA was approved last week as a certified site for examining commercial driver license applicants. He said the Department of Public Safety changed how it administered testing for CDL applicants more than a year ago, establishing 13 “megacenters” for testing around Texas. Drivers have to wait as long as three months to take the test — sometimes too long, he said, to retain the knowledge and skills gained from a course.

He said LSCPA is now testing drivers here, especially its own students, so that the drivers don’t lose their knowledge or skills.

 

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