Companies investing in the Rio Grande Valley anticipate high demand for workers that may exceed 9,000 jobs. The news comes from seven large employers attending a Workforce Summit recently held at the Port of Brownsville.
Three proposed liquefied natural gas plants will drive initial demand. The companies should receive their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits and commence construction within the next three years. During the construction phase these companies estimate a need for more than 6,000 workers alone.
Two current companies at the port, along with two other potential tenants, listed the need for an additional 3,000 workers. These include those for several full-time and temporary positions.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our workforce. The jobs are going to be plentiful, they’re going to pay well, but we need to educate and train our current workforce to take those jobs that are going to become available,” said Pat Hobbs, executive director of Workforce Solutions Cameron County.
Representatives from Rio Grande LNG, Annova LNG, Texas LNG, Andalusian Energy, Big River Steel, Keppel Amfels and International Shipbreaking Ltd. met with local trade schools, universities, and economic development corporations. The group outlined job categories, timelines, numbers, skills and certifications needed. This creates a general picture of the labor force needs and training required.
In turn, community organizations had an opportunity to ask questions. They also outlined the talent and qualifications of the workforce in the Rio Grande Valley. The region graduates a number of qualified and prepared engineers. Yet, these professionals leave the area due to the lack of jobs in their respective careers, according to Veronica Gonzales, vice president for Governmental and Community Relations at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Valley electricians and welders shared similar challenges.
The workforce summit was hosted by the Port of Brownsville, the Texas Workforce Commission and Workforce Solutions Cameron. Before the summit, guest employers sat down with TWC Chair Ruth Hughes. In this private meeting, they outlined future challenges of fulfilling workforce needs and finding matching state grants or aid.
“We have a lot of different reasons why people have jobs, take jobs, keep jobs and we want to make sure we address all of them and that we really help people succeed in Texas,” Hughes said. “We really think that that’s our miracle the way that competing companies and competing EDC’s, competing schools can come together and train a workforce so that there’s enough for everyone to go around and our grants will help and assist in reaching some of those goals.”
The summit will elect a steering committee and then schedule future gatherings to continue to unite stakeholders.