A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

SER – Jobs for Progress Begins Construction on new Workforce Opportunity Center

Student Testimonial: Brittany Torres tells how SER helped her get her GED and complete training to become a certified welder.

On September 19, SER – Jobs for Progress hosted a press conference to announce the kick-off of their Pathways to Potential capital campaign, a drive to complete their new Workforce Opportunity Center in Houston’s East End.  Joined by civic and community leaders at the construction site of what will become their new 22,000 square foot headquarters, the job training agency announced a strategic plan that will address the increased need for a larger workforce to rebuild Houston following the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey.  The $17 million project is a joint public-private venture for which $11.5 million has already been raised.

Speakers at the event included Texas State Senator Sylvia Garcia, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman, and Houston City Council Member Robert Gallegos.  Howard Tellepsen, President and CEO of Tellepsen Builders, the company which had originally headquartered at that location, said that he imagined that his grandfather looking down from heaven must be proud that the place was being transformed into SER’s new Workforce Opportunity Center – “a modern-day training ground for tomorrow’s skilled workforce.”  He asked everyone to consider joining the Tellepsen family in supporting SER’s Pathways to Potential campaign with a gift.

SER’s mission is to help individuals from low-income communities to transform their lives through education, training, employment, and financial empowerment services.  One of SER’s programs is YouthBuild Houston, where young people aged 17 to 24 can get paid while earning a GED and training for a construction career.  One person who has recently benefitted from this program is Brittany Torres, who shared her story of how SER helped her turn her life around.

Torres was a high-school dropout working at minimum wage jobs and living without much hope for her future until she came to SER.  After she earned her GED, she dreamed of becoming a welder, and she said that SER helped her with that.  “When I started, I was kind of ‘iffy’ about it, because it is a male-dominated trade.  For a woman, it is harder to get in because they don’t take you seriously – they don’t think you can do the job as well.  But I have heard that in the welding industry, girls can be better welders than men.”  That idea pushed Torres forward, inspiring her to push herself forward, to go forward, to finish school, and to “not care about what anybody else had to say.”  Torres continued:

“I can honestly say today – I just finished welding school a week ago – I can say that I am a certified welder.  I just can’t wait to be able to say when somebody asks me ‘What do you do for a living?’ and I get to say ‘Well, I’m a welder!’  They get to look at me like ‘oh wow, ok!’  That is just something that I am so proud of myself to have accomplished.

“Throughout this whole time – as a kid growing up, you go through hard things – but SER helps you realize that no matter what obstacles you go through, no matter what you get thrown at you, no matter who you are or where you come from – if you put your mind to mind to something and you give it your all – you will become all you want to be.

“That’s why I am so glad to be here today.  I am just amazed to see that in so little time – I started attending SER back in March and it’s September and I have already come this far.”  Torres said that she was a kid up until she was 22-years-old, having done nothing with her life up to that point.  “It is so amazing: when you have people who care for you and push you to move forward, you can actually be something.”

“After attending welding school, I do plan on finding work – [SER] is going to help me with that as well – but I also want to further my career – I don’t want it to stop here.”  Torres plans to work for a couple of years and then go back to school to become an underwater welder.  She wants to own her own house, have a family, and “be able to give back.”

“I would like to put the word out there that if you want to better yourself, SER is the place to go.  SER is where it happens; it is where they make your dreams come true; and they won’t tell you ‘no.’”  She said if one way to make a person’s dreams come true does not work out, SER will find a different path to get that person to where he or she needs to be.

You can hear all of Torres remarks in the 3-minute video below, and read more about the press conference in a Houston Public Media report by Brien Straw.