• June 7, 2024

Local sisters boost business through STC apprenticeship

Local sisters boost business through STC apprenticeship

Maribel and Carolina Saenz say South Texas College is giving business owners and professionals incredible opportunities to grow their companies through cutting-edge programs and apprenticeships.

The two sisters, who operate their business Saenz Utility Contractors based in Edcouch-Elsa, were among those who recently received a certificate of completion through STC’s Construction Superintendent Apprenticeship Program.

The apprenticeship program is a unique partnership between the college’s Center for Advanced Training and Apprenticeships (CATA) and the Rio Grande Valley Chapter of Associated General Contractors of America (RGV-AGC) and tailored to those already working in industry.

The goal, according to the two sisters is to take the company, which specializes in what it calls “horizontal construction” referring to the installation and building of underground infrastructure like water, irrigation, drainage and sewer lines for municipalities, into a new generation of growth.

“As women in the construction industry, our priority has always been to get more education on how to run the business more efficiently. We jumped at the chance to take this program as soon as it was available to us,” Maribel said. “The apprenticeship program at STC became a system of checks and balances for us that allowed us to see what we are doing right and where we can improve while giving us an even greater professional edge.”

Maribel is an STC alumna, graduating with an associate degree in Mathematics in 2009, before transferring to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) to earn her bachelor’s degree in 2011.

Carolina graduated from Texas A&M-College Station in 2012 and received a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing in 2012, developing her own skillset she would apply to the business, she said.

Now carrying forward what was established by their father more than 20 years ago, the sisters say they are operating the company as a team with Maribel handling the external aspects and Carolina handling internal affairs for the company.

“The apprenticeship through CATA helped us understand our respective duties from the other perspectives,” Carolina said. “In my case, I learned things that Maribel does like project estimating along with the management and supervision of personnel and then she learned more of what I do which includes things like project take-off and scheduling. This helped us come together so that we could help our business fill in the gaps and see in what direction we needed to grow.”

STC has established the apprenticeship course as a “hybrid-style,” program, which means that it combines hands-on training and lecture, with a certificate awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor, that can be completed in four to six months with 2,000 hours of on-the-job training that will be required before students earn their journeyman certificate.

The program covers essential aspects including blueprint reading, construction management, and leadership, while providing students with the flexibility of an on-the-job schedule.

The apprenticeship addresses a crucial industry need by targeting professionals in construction-related careers, particularly those involved in public sector projects such as federal initiatives, schools, and industrial endeavors. The program is designed for those already employed in the industry and who can meet the requirements for the apprenticeship, which include an on-the-job schedule as well as completion of the program curriculum.

For the Saenz sisters, who operate their company of 25 employees, joining and completing the apprenticeship program is only the first step to developing the company they hope will remain in the family for decades to come.

“I like to tell everyone that we’re small but mighty,” Maribel said. “We’re efficient at what we do, and we wear a lot of hats for the same reason, but our main goal has always been to work hard for ourselves and for our families. I think STC understands this better than anyone.”

For more information about CATA and the apprenticeships it offers, call 956-872-6197 or contact apprenticeship navigator Christabel Jasso at cgalleg4@southtexascollege.edu.

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