Area industries, educators and economic developers celebrated the state’s decision Wednesday to fund $1.3 million in local staff-training opportunities and equipment purchases.


Representatives of the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium and the Advanced Manufacturing Program gathered at Grayson College, where Texas Workforce Commissioner Robert Thomas presented each group with its own check. Five employers under the professional consortium — Presco Polymers, Tyson Foods, Emerson-Fischer, GlobiTech and Renlita Custom Opening Solutions — were awarded a combined $1.19 million to fund training for roughly 600 of their current employees, while the AMP youth-education program got $100,000 to help students learn on industry-standard machinery.


“We really appreciate all these entities and the commitment they have to help see this to fruition and to make sure that we have the equipment that we need and that we can provide the training that we need,” Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said.


Tyson Training Specialist Sam Keeler spoke at the presentation and said grants that fund employee trainings are important because workers lacking in certifications and trainings are often intimidated or disheartened by the process of pursuing a new position within the company.


“I have people come to me all the time and say, ‘I want to get a promotion’ or ‘I want to take on this new role, but I have these deficiencies and they’re standing in may way,’” Keeler said.


Keeler said even Tyson’s most basic training programs, like its six-month GED course or eight-week English and computer-literacy courses, can have measurable results.


“Those have all made lasting impacts,” Keeler said. “With those in place, we’re seeing more citizenship applications come through. We’re seeing more people be able to apply for supervisory jobs.”


Renlita President Jason Royse also spoke at the event and said his employees had benefited from grant-funded trainings on CPR, first aid, workplace safety and machinery programming.


“They’re going to be better equipped to handle a wide variety of situations and tasks now as a result of this training,” Royse said. “We still have some CAD (Computer-Aided Design and Drafting) training to complete and that will help leapfrog our production personnel into other roles, whether it’s as an engineer, a draftsman or something else.”


Workforce Solutions Texoma Executive Director Janie Bates said the Advanced Manufacturing Program accepted 83 students for the 2018-2019 school year, effectively doubling last year’s participation. The program is open to sophomore, junior and senior students of the Sherman, Denison, Pottsboro and Whitesboro independent school districts. Those who are accepted take classes at their respective high schools before moving onto courses at Grayson College’s Advanced Manufacturing Lab and on-site internships with participating companies.


Bates said the $100,000 grant awarded to AMP would be used to buy new machines or tools and give the program’s students more of the real-world experience they and their future employers want.


“Next year we will have our first graduates and all these companies who’ve participated and donated money are going to be fighting over who get to hire them,” Bates said. “These will be really great, well-taught kids with a lot of experience.”


Drew Smith is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at asmith@heralddemocrat.com or on Twitter @DrewSmithHD.