EDITORIAL: Port training agreement can offer more benefits

It’s gratifying to see that cooler heads prevailed and Texas A&M University, along with Texas State Technical College, will establish a job training program for tenants at the Port of Brownsville.

Plans to sign a memorandum of understanding between the port and the institutions had been tabled last month after Texas Southmost College voiced its opposition to the agreement.

TSC President Jesus Roberto Rodriguez said that his college could provide all the job training the port needs and deserves primary consideration because it is based in Brownsville and the two entities are supported by the same local taxpayers. After an exchange of letters between Rodriguez and A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, Sharp suggested the university might back out of the deal.

Fortunately it didn’t, the MOU was signed and the training program is back on track.

TSC and the port already have their own MOU for similar job training. Talks with A&M began informally during a workforce summit held this summer at the port. Officials at A&M, one of the nation’s top engineering institutions, suggested that they could help provide training for new industries that are expected in the near future, such as natural gas distribution plants and a steel mill.

There’s nothing wrong with educational institutions fighting over business. And the issue goes beyond competition for potentially lucrative programs.

A strong argument can be made for expanding job training programs at TSC, since most of its students live in the area, and the 5.8% local unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average of 3.7% and state average of 3.4%. More job training opportunities can help reduce the gap by training local students for port jobs.

At the same time, utilizing Texas A&M’s resources could benefit port industries in ways that TSC can’t. To begin with, there’s no guarantee that enough Brownsville youth will want the kinds of jobs and training the MOU will provide, and TSTC’s 13 campuses across the state give port industries recruitment opportunities that the local college can’t provide.

The preference has always been to offer such opportunities first to local residents, but recruiting beyond the region isn’t always a bad thing. People who relocate to the Valley for new job opportunities bring new investment in the local housing market. They are new taxpayers who will help feed our economy, support our businesses and add to our culture. Those who already live here usually don’t provide such a large initial jolt of new resources when they take new jobs here.

We trust that any competition between the colleges will spur innovation and improvement, and that it won’t preclude the opportunities that surely will arise for them to cooperate on research and other issues when the opportunities present themselves.

Doing so will benefit the schools, port industries and, most importantly, the Rio Grande Valley as a whole.