As construction plans are being worked out on the King Ranch for the world's largest direct air capture facility, Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) is also building new curriculum for its students to go along with it.
With the world's largest direct air capture facility heading to Kleberg County, nearly 3,000 jobs will be brought to the city along with it. TAMUK President Dr. Robert Vela said he hopes their students are the first in line for these new job opportunities.
"I don’t want our talent pool leaving our region. We need to cultivate our students so that way they stay and thrive because they can stay and thrive. We need to show our students how to do that and provide them those opportunities," Vela said.
Vela said the way to do this is to create a program with training and skills directly aligned with Oxy, the petroleum corporation in charge of the direct air capture facility.
The program will offer a certification that students can start as early as high school. Kingsville ISD and Santa Gertrudis ISD are already on board with the idea.
Once students complete the certification, all credits will be transferable and applicable straight to the university’s engineering bachelor's degree. With the certification, students can choose to jump straight into work at the facility or even work while continuing their education.
"It’s not always a traditional path to a bachelor's degree. Some of us who are first generation have to work first and then continue to build on to that to get your bachelor's degree. That’s what I had to do," Vela said.
Vela said workforce demand is an area that TAMUK has not been doing well in, causing them to lose enrollment to other universities for certain types of training and degrees.
But with the new facility, city leaders are excited about the possibilities it can bring to students and locals.
"Growth, retention, the opportunities are endless. This is like one of those deals that come once in a lifetime and we basically hit the lottery," Kingsville Judge Rudy Madrid said.
The certification program is still in the brainstorming process. The needed skill set is still being determined by Oxy. The skill set will however be hands-on and possibly require simulation labs and a capstone project.
"These employers would not be in our communities if they didn’t believe we could deliver and that we have the talent pool to do it. And we have the talent pool," Vela said.
The next step in the process is for the university to hire someone to lead the program. The university hopes to announce it in about six months.