Service, Employment, Redevelopment-Jobs for Progress, Incorporated, was founded in Houston in 1964 as a placement center to serve the Mexican-American community. Since it also began addressing other concerns besides employment, by 1980 SER referred to itself as a multiservice organization. In 1991 it was a nonprofit national network of organizations serving Hispanics and was their largest employment agency. SER originated as the idea of Roberto Ornelas, a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens, and George Roybal, both employed by the United States Navy in 1964. They obtained support from national LULAC for a referral agency and persuaded their LULAC chapter, Houston Council 60, to pilot a volunteer-placement center (called LULAC-Jobs for Progress Center) in cooperation with local corporations. LULAC chapters in Corpus Christi and Beaumont followed suit. LULAC approached the American G.I. Forum of Texas to serve as a cosponsor in an effort to obtain federal funding. In 1967 the Department of Labor, under the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962, funded Roybal's proposal for SER as an experimental project with $400,000 for two years. It was the first program by the United States Department of Labor to target job training and employment for Mexican Americans.
SER became a federally funded program, but its funding has fluctuated annually. In 1972 SER fell under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act. In 1980 LULAC national president Eduardo Peña obtained a federal-funding increase for SER. Under the Ronald Reagan administration, CETA lost funding; SER was defined by the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982 as a community-based organization. State, county, and local governments have also funded SER. In 1974 Austin SER director Anabelle Valle obtained the support of more than twenty-five Hispanic community organizations to ensure another year of funding. Since its inception, SER has had corporate support. In 1965 the Houston project established an affiliate of corporate sponsors called Amigos de SER. In 1973 Amigos was institutionalized on a national basis. In 1980 it was composed of more than sixty major corporations. These organizations originally assisted SER with donations, but by 1991 eighty corporations also provided business, technical, and administrative advice. SER established its national office in Albuquerque in 1966. It was located in Los Angeles from 1970 to 1980 and in Dallas from 1980 to 1991, when it was moved to Irving. In 1972 SER could be found in twenty-nine cities across the nation. In 1980 national SER operated 134 affiliates in over 100 cities and assisted 250,000 persons. In 1991 SER operated in ninety cities, had 129 affiliate offices, and served a million persons.
SER maintains a national staff and a national board of directors. In 1991 Pedro Viera was executive director. The national office provided technical assistance to its affiliates. The national board of directors includes six representatives from LULAC, six from the Forum, six from Amigos de SER, and two from local SER affiliates. The first board of directors was organized in 1966. SER has no state offices but many local affiliates. In 1970 Texas had five projects in care of $1.7 million annually. By 1970 national SER had trained 13,000 workers, 4,312 in Texas alone. In 1979 SER could be found in Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Houston, Lubbock, San Antonio, San Juan, El Paso, and Dallas. In 1991 the Texas list included Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Houston, Laredo, and San Antonio. SER has no statewide structure, and local SER offices are autonomous. In 1981 there was a Texas SER Directors' Association. The local SER board of directors approximates the national structure. Local SER determines its programs on the basis of local needs and resources. In 1972 the Corpus Christi office contracted with the Del Mar Technical Institute to offer courses to its trainees.
SER has offered literacy and basic skills training, instruction in English, counseling, on-the-job training, immigration and legalization assistance, job search and placement, and general educational development and has offered vocational training in such specific areas as pipe fitting and bookkeeping. In 1986 literacy was added as a major focus, and family learning centers were established in SER affiliates. Local SER often seeks to redress discriminatory or racially imbalanced job hiring. In 1979 the Houston mayor's summer program employed 87 percent Blacks, 10 percent Hispanics, and 1 percent Anglos. SER's clientele has changed over time. In the 1970s the organization targeted high school dropouts but since the 1980s has favored working with high school graduates, especially single mothers with children. SER national also maintains a job bank for professionals. From 1979 to 1982 SER had a women's division. In 1980 Houston's "Nueva Vida" program assisted senior citizens. SER publications include A Tribute to the Mexican American Legislators of Texas in 1978 and Hispanics and the Labor Market: A Critical Perspective in 1980. SER local offices have sponsored newsletters, as have some states affiliates. In 1989 SER began publishing SERAmerica, a quarterly magazine.