VIDA Sparks Opportunities in Mercedes & RGV
Victor Gonzalez was looking for training and a career to provide a lift and raise his standard of living.
The Mercedes resident didn’t need to look far to connect to a field of work that suited him. The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, (VIDA), has its regional headquarters in Mercedes. From this strategic mid-point in the Rio Grande Valley, VIDA administers an array of services and training programs that connects participants to rewarding careers.
Since 1995, VIDA has served over 7000 participants in finding career pathways in allied health, educational and social services, and a range of specialized trades. For Gonzalez, it meant enrolling in a new commercial electrician program. It’s a four-year program and he has completed the first year in already landing a job in the field.
Gonzalez works for Global Electric of Brownsville and it will help him accumulate needed hours of experience as he learns from real world mentors in addition to the program’s training and instruction.
“It feels really good to do something that interests me and to keep learning as I get experience,’’ he said. “Anyone can learn it as long as you put time into it.’’
Isidro Ramos, VIDA’s workforce development manager, said Gonzalez’s participation and success in the electrician program reflects the support Mercedes gives his organization. Mercedes, like other area cities, provides VIDA with funding to specifically provide training for residents living in their communities. In 2019, VIDA had 20 participants from Mercedes, with 10 enrolled in 2020.
“The city of Mercedes has continued to support VIDA, and it has helped to provide its residents with the training and services we provide,’’ Ramos said. “For any city going through COVID (19), they could say we don’t have money for this right now, (training programs), but Mercedes has continued to invest.’’
The Mercedes-based VIDA partners with educational institutions like UT-Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College, Texas State Technical College and Texas Southmost College, in connecting participants to academic programs in allied health, trades, and social services, among other programs. Tuition support is provided to participants along with case managers to guide the students.
Financial support is also provided for child care and transportation. This sort of comprehensive support has been shown to work. Over ninety percent of VIDA participants complete their training and educational programs. Research has shown that for every dollar invested in a VIDA participant, the return on investment is over $12 as graduates gain better-paying jobs and spend those dollars in their communities.
“When you have a community like Mercedes that has been very supportive, it shows that they believe in having a skilled and trained workforce,’’ Ramos said.
Gonzalez is a testament to the city’s commitment to VIDA along with being the organization’s host city.
“I’m going to keep at it and do the four years (of the electrician program),’’ he said. “I’m going to work toward getting my (state) license and learning more.’’
For more information about VIDA and its programs, call 956-903-1900.
- Ricardo D. Cavazos