Stories of Success – Skills for Small Business

business-woman-83250393The Skills for Small Business program provides businesses of fewer than 100 employees with state-funded training with an emphasis on training new workers or upgrading the skills of incumbent workers.

Small businesses interested in training for their employees may be eligible for up to $1,800 in training for each new worker and $900 for each existing worker for classes offered at their local community and technical college. Below are several success stories from small businesses across Texas that have utilized Skills for Small Business grants to improve the skills of their employees and build a stronger workforce throughout the state.

Concho Valley Radiators Service – San Angelo, TX

  • Concho Valley Radiator Service specializes in designing and replacing industrial radiators across the country. Through a partnership with Howard College, training was provided for employees with a focus on welding and office skills. This training allowed employees to gain additional work-related skills and the courses were taught by local instructors. “This was an excellent way for a small business to receive training without employees taking a lot of time off,” said Carolyn Henry, Human Resources Representative with Concho Valley Radiators Service. “Classes can be expensive, yet, with the Skills for Small Business grant we are able to train our employees.”

Electronic Assemblies – Wharton, TX

  • Electronic Assemblies, a small business in Wharton recently partnered with Wharton County Junior College (WCJC) to assist in the training of some of their employees. Electronic Assemblies recently promoted two employees to management roles and wanted them to attend the Leadership Workshop at WCJC that works to upgrade the skills of local employees that have been placed in new roles of leadership or management. Each participant received $720 worth of training that was fully paid for by the Skills for Small Business grant. They were so pleased with the experience and the financial assistance that they sent an additional employee to an online training to help increase his skills in accounting, fully paid for through a grant.

Polk County Publishing Company – Livingston, TX

  • Polk County Publishing Company, a small publishing company in Livingston that specializes in printing and graphic design recently partnered with Angelina College to advance the job skills for their employees. “In small business today, it is a struggle to provide benefits and opportunities to employees,” said Kelli Barnes, Manager, Polk County Publishing Company. “When I first heard about the Skills for Small Business grant, I was immediately interested for two reasons. First, having the opportunity to offer a benefit that is not an extra cost to employees or our company is great. Second, I am a strong believer in improving skills.”

Small businesses are encouraged to apply directly to TWC for training approval. Employers seeking more information about the Skills for Small Business program, including applications and information about how to apply may visit the TWC website at www.texasworkforce.org/ssb.

Significant Moments in Disability History Contribute to Employment of People with Disabilities

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has partnered with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and the Texas Workforce Solutions board partners to launch the Texas HireAbility campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. The campaign was launched in October in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). As we end our celebration of NDEAM, we reflect on the significant moments in our history that are important to these efforts.

Many events in national and Texas state history have positively contributed to equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Disability History Timeline (1).jpg

These moments in history are significant for establishing vocational rehabilitation programs, services and policies to help people with disabilities prepare for, obtain, retain and advance in high-quality employment in Texas and across the United States.

Although NDEAM officially ended yesterday, our efforts to raise awareness and assist individuals with disabilities as they pursue their career goals will continue through our ongoing Texas HireAbility Campaign. For more information about vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities and to learn more about the Texas HireAbility campaign, visit TXHireAbility.texasworkforce.org.

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Five Key Facts About Hiring People with Disabilities

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has partnered with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Texas Workforce Solutions to launch the Texas HireAbility campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. The campaign was launched in October in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

According to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 82,000 Texans with disabilities of working age (18-64) are actively seeking employment. Below are several key advantages for businesses looking to recruit, hire and retain these qualified Texans.

  • Studies show employees with disabilities are rated by supervisors as being equally or more productive than coworkers and as achieving equal or better overall job performance.
  • 33% of hiring managers and executives reported that employees with disabilities stay in their jobs longer. Businesses which hire employees with disabilities report increased employee retention and less absenteeism.
  • 59% of workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities cost nothing, while most others have a onetime cost of $500 or less.
  • Hiring people with disabilities does not increase a company’s workers’ compensation liability. Workers’ compensation rates are based solely on the business’ accident record and operational hazards.  Employing  workers with disabilities does not impact the rates.
  • The labor laws businesses must following when firing underperforming employees are the same for employees with or without disabilities. These employees can be terminated when appropriate documentation is maintained to support the decision.

For more information about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, and to learn more about National Disability Employment Awareness Month, visit TXHireAbility.texasworkforce.org.

To learn how creating a culture of accessibility positively impacts business, watch and share this webinar produced by the Texas Workforce Solutions and the Texas Workforce Commission in collaboration with Seton Healthcare Family.

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Texas Economy Adds 38,300 Jobs in September

The latest Employment report shows that Texas added an estimated 206,800 seasonally adjusted jobs over the past year. Texas’ total nonfarm seasonally adjusted employment increased by 38,300 jobs in September’s preliminary estimate. The state has added jobs in 17 of the past 18 months.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.8 percent in September, up slightly from 4.7 percent in August, and remained below the national rate of 5.0 percent.

The Leisure and Hospitality industry recorded the largest industry employment gain over the month with 17,900 jobs added. Professional and Business services employment grew by 6,000 jobs in September. Construction employment expanded for the third consecutive month with the addition of 3,400 jobs.

The Amarillo and Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 3.5 percent, followed by the Lubbock MSA with a rate of 3.6 percent and the College Station-Bryan MSA with a rate of 3.7 for September.

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TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Celebrates Women in Business

Two conference attendees, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs and Keynote speaker Geneva Grainger.
Pictured from left are two conference attendees, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs and Keynote speaker Geneva Grainger.

October is National Women’s Small Business Month and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is celebrating the contributions of women in the Texas workforce. TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs prepared a brief video message in recognition of the month long celebration.

In September, TWC along with the Economic Development and Tourism Division of the Office of the Governor, Alamo Area Council of Governments, and Workforce Solutions Alamo, hosted the Inaugural Governor’s Business Forum for Women in partnership with the Governor’s Commission for Women. The sold-out forum provided women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with informative sessions on finance, branding and communication and business development. This forum was so successful that it will become a regular series of Governor’s Office of Small Business Assistance Governor’s Small Business Forums, which promote the state of Texas as a premier business location.

This forum brought together resource partners from the University of Texas San Antonio Business Development Agency Business Center, Texas Women’s University Women’s Leadership Institute, US Small Business Administration, and Texas Facilities Commission, along with corporate and business leaders to share best practices for creating dynamic changes in today’s world and seizing opportunities and overcoming obstacles.

“TWC believes that small businesses are the backbone of the Texas economy and women play a key role in the success of the state. Texas’ history of women-owned businesses is longstanding and it is great to acknowledge these business owners for their hard work and commitment to excellence,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs.

Texas currently ranks second in the number of women-owned businesses, but Texas numbers are growing at more than twice the rate of all businesses nationwide¹.

Women business owners serve as important role models for potential job creators across the state and play a significant part in the Texas economy. Texas has been listed as the most small-business friendly state in the nation and also earned an A+ from entrepreneurs who started a business in Texas². Women-owned small businesses are an important part of our state’s continued economic success.

TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs spoke to attendees on the topic of “Having a small business in a big business world” during the Inaugural Governor’s Business Forum for Women. This is the seventh year of the Governor’s Small Business Forums, which have been held in rural and urban locations throughout the state and are designed to support the more than 470,000 Texas employers who employ 100 or fewer workers.

These forums are designed to give entrepreneurs and small businesses valuable tools, skills and knowledge needed to thrive in today’s fast-paced economy. Featuring a wide range of instructive seminars and expert speakers offering vital information on both public and private resources, the forums offer a great opportunity to network and connect with industry specialists, government officials, service providers and other regional businesses.

Upcoming events will be held in San Angelo, Brownsville, Victoria, Lufkin and Round Rock. For more information on dates for these events, visit the Texas Wide Open for Business website.

[1] What Make Texas the Most Small Business Friendly State, and Rhode Island the Least – August 15, 2015 Forbes Media

[2] Gov. Greg Abbott: My Goal is to make Texas the No. 1 State for Women-Owned Businesses – September 28, 2015 Forbes Media

Texas HireAbility Campaign Raising Awareness of Hiring People with Disabilities

TXHireAbility_Logo 9-16.png

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has partnered with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Texas Workforce Solutions to launch the Texas HireAbility campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.  The campaign is launched in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month to highlight the contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce. Governor Greg Abbott has issued a proclamation for Disability Employment Awareness Month in Texas. The Texas HireAbility campaign will feature statewide events and resources for employers and job-seekers with disabilities.

Texas HireAbility resources for employers will include a Workplace Accessibility Webinar which employers can access on-demand from the Texas HireAbility website in early October.  TWC will also connect employers to resources on recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities through the TWC Solutions blog and other social media channels.

As part of the campaign’s launch in October, TWC will partner with Texas Workforce Solutions offices across the state to promote job and hiring fairs to that connect Texas employers with job seekers with disabilities.  These events will be ongoing and will provide opportunities for employers to receive resumes and applications, as well as conduct onsite or post-event interviews.  TWC will also promote events to help employers learn more about recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.

Check out October’s full schedule of events associated with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Follow us on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter for more updates about #TXHireAbility.

Working together to help employers hire people with abilities

Rey Cantu sitting in front of computer at workplace
Rey Cantu sitting at his work station – photo courtesy of Workforce Solutions Lower Rio Grande Valley

Employing knowledgeable and skilled employees who have strong abilities and dedicated work ethics is every employer’s dream. On the flipside, most job seekers want to work for business owners, large and small, who focus on their strengths and commitment to their careers. Making both dreams come true can be possible when employers concentrate on a candidate’s ability, not his or her disability, when hiring new employees. Effective Sept. 1, 2016, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and employees from the former Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) began cementing an already strong partnership that strives for achievement of those dreams as the Business Relations team of the vocational rehabilitation program joined the Texas Workforce Solutions service network and became part of TWC.

The transition to this new agency has been a smooth one as the two agencies and their partners have been working together for years to help connect employers with individuals who have the abilities they need.

The story of Rey Cantu is just one example of this collaborative effort.

Rey Cantu is a young man that has difficulty with his vision and is unable to see at night or in places that are not lit properly. He felt that it would not be possible to get a job because of his disability. Cantu is among the more than 1.6 million working-aged Texans with one or more disabilities.

To help Cantu gain employment, Texas Workforce Solutions Lower Rio Grande (Lower Rio) and former DARS employees encouraged him to participate in the Work Experience Program with Lower Rio. Through this program, Cantu learned that he is not defined by his disability.

The Work Experience Program is a planned, structured learning experience that takes place with a business partner for a limited time period. After working with one employer for two-and-a-half months, Cantu was asked to stay on full time. He also received assistance with his communication skills and transportation needs, giving him the confidence needed to successfully gain employment.

“The Workforce Solutions Work Experience Program helps people get back into the workforce and support themselves,” said Lower Rio CEO Frank Almaraz. “It may be something as simple as helping to coach someone to have a little more self-confidence, clean up their résumé and be able to present themselves well or prepare for an interview. Just like Cantu, this training can open the doors to a new career for job seekers looking to join the workforce.”

Lower Rio has partnered with Project HIRE (Helping Individuals to Reach Employment) since 2012 to help hardworking individuals like Cantu develop skills for the workplace. Project HIRE is a grant awarded by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities which provides opportunities for people with disabilities to obtain workplace skills and training.

“Rey was able to gain knowledge, practice and understanding of how to complete job tasks through the work experience he received at Valley Association for Independent Living (VAIL),” said VAIL Program Director Lidia A. Teran Gutierrez. “It allowed him to receive training that prepared him for the position he was offered. Because of this hands-on experience, Rey has been, and without a doubt, continues to be an asset at VAIL.” Partnerships such as Project HIRE provide an opportunity to encourage an individual’s professional skills, while teaching them to overcome barriers to employment. Project HIRE offers people with disabilities the opportunity for a successful career and financial independence. Businesses benefit from these partnerships through technical assistance and training to learn more about accommodating employees with disabilities.

“Participating in the Workforce Solutions Work Experience program helped me show VAIL that I could do the job. I was able to show VAIL my strengths and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get the job at VAIL in the first place without the help of Workforce Solutions,” said Cantu. “Thanks to everyone for all the help.”

Programs similar to Project HIRE and Workforce Experience help businesses become aware of how to train and retain employees who may have a disability.

On a national level, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2016 creates awareness of the importance that disability plays in workforce diversity. This year’s NDEAM theme is #InclusionWorks and will be observed in October. NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates employers about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.

 

Expanding Adult Education Opportunities

Female college student in library
Female college student in library

Public and community college libraries serve in a variety of capacities for Texas residents, providing community focused activities and conveniences for a diverse population. Many of these services lend support in locating beneficial information, resources and strengthening community networks.

In an effort to reinforce neighborhood partnerships, Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to expand library engagement with local Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) programs. TSLAC received a $200,000 grant to expand adult education opportunities to more than 4.3 million Texans who qualify for assistance.

The Library AEL Expansion Project provides resources for libraries and literacy providers, including a digital literacy toolkit, a webpage containing best practices, and training workshops. One-on-one consulting will be available to strengthen and connect local adult education facilitators with materials; expanding the adult literacy programs connection with community resources.

Additionally, the project creates opportunities for libraries and adult education providers to align efforts and build new partnerships to meet the needs of adult learners. With TWC’s AEL programs, adult learners receive English language, math, reading, and writing instruction to assist them in acquiring the skills needed to succeed in the workforce, earn a high school equivalency or enter college or career training. Individuals interested in TWC’s AEL program can visit the AEL Teachers and Providers webpage and Texas Adult Education and Literacy web pages.

This 15-month project is part of  the capacity building project initiatives set out in TWC’s Training, Resource and Innovation Network for Texas (TRAIN Tex) strategy to accelerate the advancement of education and training priorities, supporting successful education and workforce transitions for individuals, families and communities across the state of Texas. For more information on the Library AEL Expansion Project and other resources available for professional librarians and adult education providers, visit the TSLAC’s website.

Expansion of Federal Tax Savings Program can help Employers save money each year

Qualified Long-Term Unemployment Recipient added to those eligible for Work Opportunity Tax Credit

Woman standing in doorway of restaurant smiling

Employers who hire a Qualified Long-Term Unemployment Recipient are now entitled to receive up to $2,400 in tax savings for each individual added to their payroll starting January 1, 2016. As part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the PATH Act), this group was added to the list of targeted populations who qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).

WOTC, a federal income tax benefit administered by the U.S. Department of Labor for employers, helps targeted workers move from economic dependency into self-sufficiency as they earn a steady income and become contributing taxpayers, while participating employers are able to reduce their income tax liability.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) assists employers by certifying the eligibility of individuals for this federal employer tax benefit. For more information regarding the WOTC program, visit the TWC WOTC web page.

Eligible groups, including the new Qualified Long Term Unemployment Recipients, for WOTC include:

  • Ex-felons
  • Residents of empowerment zones or rural renewal counties
  • Summer youth
  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit recipients
  • Supplemental Security Income recipients
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients
  • Vocational rehabilitation referrals
  • Long Term Family Assistance recipients
  • Veteran groups – Veterans receiving SNAP benefits, disabled and unemployed veterans

Each group has specific qualifications and employers can earn a tax credit from $1,200 to $9,600 per eligible employee hired, depending on which group the newly hired worker represents.

 

Texas Economy Adds 21,400 Jobs in August

The latest Employment report shows that Texas added an estimated 190,600 seasonally adjusted jobs over the past year. Texas’ total nonfarm seasonally adjusted employment increased by 21,400 jobs in August’s preliminary estimate. The state has added jobs in 16 of the last 17 months.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.7 percent in August, up slightly from 4.6 percent in July, and remained below the national rate of 4.9 percent.

The Financial Activities industry recorded the largest industry employment gain over the month with 6,200 jobs added. Trade, Transportation and Utilities employment added 4,000 jobs in August. Construction employment expanded for the second consecutive month with the addition of 1,300 jobs.

The Amarillo Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) recorded the lowest unemployment rate for August with a 3.4 percent rate for the month. The Austin-Round Rock MSA had the second-lowest rate at 3.5 percent followed by the Lubbock MSA with a rate of 3.8 percent.

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