By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – During the regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Grapeland City Council held Tuesday, Feb. 20, Mayor Balis Dailey informed the members of the council of a partnership offered to the City of Grapeland and Grapeland Independent School District by Darling Industries.

“I had a call from them that is really exciting. They said, ‘Look, we want to enter into a partnership with the city and the school district, and we want to try to consider some kind of programs where we can take high school students and get them into the workforce; give them some training,” Dailey explained.

A meeting was then held between Dailey, GISD Superintendent Don Jackson and GISD School Board President Eddie Childress.

“We went through the typical things we talk about all the time, like ‘How do you do this? How do you have success? How do you motivate them?’” Dailey divulged. “Basically, it’s a long, drawn-out process that will take us quit a while to do. And it’ll take us as a council trying to figure out how we can do it and be success-oriented and not just throwing money away.”

Darling has expressed willingness to host a job fair at Grapeland ISD for students on the verge of graduation “to come in and take a look at that.

“Darling will pay for them to go to Bastrop to train,” Dailey continued. “So, they’ll train at their plant in Bastrop, and if they like that good, hard work and decent salary, then they can apply for a job and hopefully start work somewhere between Oct. 1 and January.”

Dailey said Darling Industries is currently still on track to open for business Monday, Oct. 1.

Dailey also spoke of opportunities the city has to train interested individuals in wastewater treatment. Outside of Grapeland, employees in that field typically start out with an annual salary of $32,000.

“We could teach them all kinds of math and science and geometry, and that curriculum is not that difficult to do,” Dailey said. “It does require some thinking, though, on how to set up an apprentice program.”

Dailey cited programs held by entities such as Dow Chemical as examples from which Grapeland could draw inspiration.

“We could just use their template, and we insert our stuff into that, and then, we develop a program,” he explained.

“You can go to work for any company worldwide,” said Dailey of working in the wastewater treatment field. “Go on the Internet and check it out; you’d be amazed at what kind of jobs are available around the globe – and high-paying.

“It’s a great area for the future, and as populations are going to increase – especially here in Texas – we’re going to need more and more of these people,” he said.

As Dailey pointed out, the establishment of a successful apprenticeship program would be a difficult task due to a number of obstacles, such as labor laws.

“It’s almost too big a mountain to get underneath,” he said. “But if we don’t do it, who’s going to?”

The possibility of entering into such a partnership with Grapeland Urgent Care was also discussed.

“The city talked to Urgent Care and said, ‘What do y’all think about an apprentice program?’” Dailey said, noting that some nursing curriculum is already in place at GISD. “And it turns out that the man that’s going to run the clinic teaches doctors.”

Grapeland Urgent Care, Dailey said, was accepting of the idea.

According to GISD Superintendent Don Jackson, the school is also currently in the process of forming a college-career partnership with Vulcraft.

“We have 16 students scheduled to attend a meeting at Vulcraft as an enhancement to their college-career development in March,” he said. “But we would be happy to see what Darling Industries also has to offer our students.”