TX Model Transforms Low-Income Students Into Skilled Professionals
Monday, February 6, 2023
For more than two decades, a workforce development program in El Paso has invested in the economically disadvantaged to help them attain the education and job skills needed to earn higher wages.
Project ARRIBA - Advanced Retraining and Redevelopment Initiative in Border Areas - connects residents of low-income neighborhoods with resources that can prepare them for higher education and job training.
President and CEO Roman Ortiz says ARRIBA promotes living-wage jobs that will help residents stay in the El Paso area.
"In order to be able to get a good career, you're going to need post-secondary success," said Ortiz, "either at the community college level, or higher, in order to be able to get into better-paying jobs."
In December, the El Paso County commissioners awarded Project ARRIBA a 20-month contract worth $1 million in American Rescue Plan funds. Ortiz said he expects to see about a 30% increase in overall growth, allowing ARRIBA to serve twice as many new participants.
Ortiz said the program - which has a 94% job-placement rate - typically guides participants into health-care, information-technology and other professional careers.
"We're only going to train for jobs that we know that in El Paso are going to be in demand and pay a family-sustaining living wage," said Ortiz. "Our goal is $14 an hour with benefits and a career path - but on average, we're job-placing people close to $58,000 a year."
In El Paso, about one out of every two women lives below the poverty line established by the federal government, according to Ortiz.
He said that makes ARRIBA's success stories very encouraging - including one about a participant who received financial assistance to graduate with a nursing degree.
"She is the cardiovascular nurse manager for our top-tier university medical center here in El Paso," said Ortiz, "who manages almost 100 nurses herself and hires our nurses that we graduate today."
He said ARRIBA, which spends about $6,500 per participant, has helped some 1,800 graduate, and another 1,600 with job placement.
Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.
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