Disconnect between educators, East Texas industry leads to on-the-job shadowing for teachers

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 2:24 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 6:29 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - There’s a lack of skilled labor in Deep East Texas according to labor analysts. Workforce Solutions Deep East Texas is trying to fix that.

This week the first Deep East Texas Externship Program is connecting 22 teachers with various industries.

Matt Turner, owner of Turner Fabrication in Nacogdoches, is participating.

“We make a variety of parts for people, from farm implements to rocket ship parts,” said Turner.

Turner built his business from the ground up after attending a technical college.

The shop had its tenth anniversary last week, long enough for Turner to realize, as he said, “We’ve really got a skills-gap.”

Three hours of shadowing and Zavalla ISD ag-mechanic teacher Laura Wise already knows the industrial strategy of fabrication. Her objective is to apply those same strategies in the classroom to better prepare her students for jobs in the local community.

“There’s a lot of organization that goes into this and that’s something I can teach my kids in the classroom, in the shop, out in labs,” said Wise.

“Working through problems. Being independent. That’s the best building blocks,” shared Turner.

Those “soft-skills” help local employers hire local job hunters.

“That was partly why the East Texas Manufacturing Alliance was started, so we could start developing a pipeline of industry in our area,” said Turner.

The Teacher Externship is a start. Turner and Wise both know the momentum also relies on good paying jobs and educational dollars directed toward career and technical education.

Healthcare, computer technology, diesel mechanics and utilities were other occupations participating in the week-long externship.

On Friday, Workforce Solutions Deep East Texas will host a debriefing so lessons learned can be shared.

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