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 SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- National higher education leaders will join workforce development experts this spring at two innovative conferences designed to increase college and career opportunities for America’s fast-growing Hispanic communities.

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is administering a federally funded partnership with colleges and universities in Texas and California to encourage new workforce education, training and job-placement initiatives targeting the nation’s youngest and largest ethnic population.

With funding from the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL/ETA), HACU is enlisting the support of its member Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs, to meet Hispanic workforce training needs among students and non-students in targeted regions. HSIs, which have a student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic, serve the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students in the United States.

“Hispanics already make up one of every three new workers joining the U.S. workforce today; by 2050, the U.S. Labor Department projects that one of every two new workers joining the workforce will be Hispanic,” HACU President and CEO Antonio Flores said.

“Thanks to our remarkably productive partnership with DOL/ETA and our member colleges and universities, we can build a workforce development system that provides advanced skills and rewarding careers to a population that is going to have a tremendous impact on our nation’s future economic success and security,” Flores said.

Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, a national leader in Hispanic education outreach to predominantly Hispanic communities throughout the Gulf Coast and Rio Grande Valley regions of Texas, is sponsoring a two-day conference, “HSI Connections: Links to Regional Prosperity,” March 20-21 at the HACU member campus.

Santa Monica College, which has earned national accolades for its innovative job training programs reaching residents throughout the Greater Los Angeles region of California, is sponsoring a two-day conference, “Innovative Opportunities: Strategic Partnerships for Excellence in Workforce Development,” May 8-9 in Santa Monica, California.

“Our partnership with a renowned four-year university and one of the nation’s leading two-year community colleges is testament to the proactive contributions that are being made by every sector of the higher education arena to building a better future for their communities and for all of us,” said Tony Leiva, HACU’s DOL/ETA Program Manager at HACU national headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.

“Employers and prospective employees everywhere have a stake in the pioneering workforce development efforts of these higher education institutions, especially in this uncertain economy,” Leiva said.

Workforce development leaders from community organizations, colleges, universities, nonprofit associations and government agency offices from throughout the United States will attend the conferences in Texas and California in a convergence of ideas and expertise focusing on Hispanic education and workforce training needs. Hispanics, a U.S. population group historically mired in disproportionately low-income occupations, also suffer the lowest high school and college graduation rates of any major population group.

HACU and the DOL/ETA in 1999 formed a partnership to directly address these statistics following passage of the national Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The Act dramatically overhauled the nation’s workforce training and employment system when it replaced the myriad, non-centralized programs of the Job Training Partnership Act. Old approaches were abandoned, and cities began adopting a one-stop approach that allows anyone to visit one central location for free access to services such as unemployment and social services, job placement, education, training and lifelong learning opportunities.

Since 1999, the HACU*DOL/ETA partnership has sponsored a series of conferences at locations throughout the country to actively engage HACU’s membership as frontline leaders in Hispanic higher education and community workforce training outreach initiatives.

HACU represents more than 340 colleges and universities that collectively serve three of every four of the nation’s 1.6 million Hispanic higher education students. An increasing number of these higher education institutions are becoming one-stop partners or housing one-stop centers as part of their involvement in Workforce Investment Act programs.

The Workforce Investment Act itself will be a major topic at the HACU*DOL/ETA conferences in Texas and California. Congress this year will revisit the Workforce Investment Act as part of a reauthorization process to determine what components of the five-year-old Act should continue to receive federal funding and support. HACU, through its government affairs office in Washington, D.C., is actively promoting efforts to make Hispanic outreach and involvement of the Hispanic higher education community a high priority in the reauthorized Act.

For more information, contact Tony Leiva, HACU’s DOL/ETA Program Manager, at (210) 692-3805. Ext. 3222. Or visit www.hacu.net.