Texas Adds 306,900 Jobs Over the Year

State records record-level employment gains in the fourth quarter

The Texas economy added 306,900 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs over the year, including 400 jobs added in December. Annual employment growth for Texas was 2.5 percent in December, marking 92 consecutive months of annual growth. Texas ended 2017 with record-level job creation numbers during the fourth quarter, adding 121,300 jobs from October to December.

“TWC looks forward to another year of strong partnerships with innovative Texas employers as they continue to create valuable opportunities for the Texas workforce and contribute to our state’s economic success,” said Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chairman Andres Alcantar.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was to 3.9 percent in December and remains below the U.S. unemployment rate of 4.1 percent.

“Private sector employers had a successful year in Texas, adding almost 270,000 jobs since December 2016,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “This growth is a great illustration of the value and opportunity that employers bring to the Texas economy.”

View the Texas Labor Market highlights from Commissioner Ruth R. Hughs:

Industries adding jobs in December included Leisure and Hospitality, which added 6,800 jobs; Construction added 4,300 jobs; and Information, which added 3,600 jobs, and includes traditional and software publishing, data processing and hosting, and telecommunications companies.

“The unemployment rate in Texas fell nearly a point over the year 2017, which is great news for workers in the Lone Star State,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “Positive economic growth means continued opportunities for the expanding labor force here in Texas.”

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Texas Economy Adds 54,500 Jobs in November and Unemployment Rate Drops to New Record Low 3.8%

The latest Employment report shows that Texas added an estimated 330,600 seasonally adjusted jobs over the past year. Texas’ total nonfarm seasonally adjusted employment increased by 54,500 jobs in November’s preliminary estimate. Annual employment growth for Texas increased to 2.7 percent in November, marking 91 consecutive months of annual growth.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in November, setting a new record for the lowest unemployment rate recorded in four decades.

“Private-sector employers added 52,000 jobs in November and have accounted for the addition of 294,600 positions in Texas over the past year,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “I am encouraged by the growth across a variety of industries and commend our employers for their investment in our Texas workforce.”

View the Texas Labor Market highlights from Commissioner Ruth R. Hughs:

Employment in Education and Health Services increased by 8,200 positions. Over the year, this industry has gained 40,400 jobs. Trade, Transportation, and Utilities employment grew by 8,200 jobs, and Manufacturing industry jobs increased by 2,700 positions.

The Amarillo and Midland Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.6 percent, followed by the Austin-Round Rock, College Station-Bryan and Lubbock MSAs with a rate of 2.7 percent. The San Antonio-New Braunfels MSA registered a rate of 3.0 percent for November.

Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for more updates about Texas Labor Market Data.

Summer Earn and Learn Employment Helps Set Career Paths for Students

This summer Texas Workforce Solutions Offices, in partnership with Texas Workforce Solutions–Vocational Rehabilitation Services staff, launched Summer Earn and Learn. The program helps teenagers and young adult students with disabilities, aged 14 to 22, gain employment experience and build confidence and skills for lifelong success. Following are success stories that highlight how the Summer Earn and Learn  program positively affected the lives of young workers and employers.

Workforce Solutions Alamo

Maureen first learned of the Summer Earn and Learn program through Workforce Solutions Alamo Youth Services. After being selected to participate, Maureen was hired as greeter by the Alamo College Eastside Education and Training Center (EETC).

Maureen and Steve Duran“Maureen’s primary responsibility was to welcome our customers,” said Alamo College EETC Supervisor Steve Duran. “However, she took initiative, watched another employee staff the front desk and instantly followed her lead. Maureen started answering phones and assisting students with other matters…always with a genuine smile on her face.”

Duran was so impressed with Maureen’s work ethic that he presented her with a $500 scholarship to help pay for Maureen’s expenses to attend San Antonio College. Maureen aspires to become a sign language interpreter.

“Participating in the Summer Earn and Learn program was fantastic,” said Duran. “I’d do it again in a New York minute.”

View a video of Maureen as she describes her success and accepts her scholarship.

Workforce Solutions Central Texas


Before participating in the Summer Earn and Learn program, Dominique attended Workforce Solutions Central Texas’ (Central Texas) Employability Training, in which he learned the work duties and responsibilities of a recreational aide staff person.

After his training, Dominique began his summer employment with the Clements Boys & Girls Club Woody Hall Unit. Witnessing Dominique’s eagerness to learn, his Clements Boys & Girl Club supervisor provided bi-weekly reports to Central Texas on Dominique’s dedication to his job and positive work ethic and demeanor.

“Dominique was an extremely conscientious and hard worker,” said Clements Boys & Girls Club Unit Director Calvin Darthard. “We were impressed by how he motivated and inspired the students and look forward to participating in the Summer Earn and Learn program next summer.”

Under the guidance of professional counselors, Dominique assisted third and fifth graders with behavior modification. Clements Boys & Girls Club was grateful of Dominique’s desire to learn and the receptive interaction between him and the younger students. Clements Boys & Girls Club offered to retain Dominique after the Summer Earn and Learn program ended, and he enthusiastically accepted the offer to continue his employment. Dominique is also assisting the unit with its athletic programs.

“I enjoy coaching and motivating youth when they think they are defeated,” said Dominique. “I like to remind them that winning is a team effort.”

Workforce Solutions North Texas

As a young child interested in art, Holly always envisioned herself working as a graphics designer. When presented with the opportunity to be employed by a local printing company during the summer, Holly quickly accepted the offer.

HollyWorkforce Solutions North Texas partnered with employer Sawyer Printing & Promo to place Holly as a printing assistant within the company. Holly’s duties included assisting with print orders and creating graphic designs. She also learned basic management skills needed to ensure printshop workflow and operations.

“We were delighted to have Holly with us for the summer,” said business namesake owner Tim Sawyer. “Her keen interest of graphics design was a perfect fit for our company. Nothing but good came from the opportunity of providing Holly with a glimpse of what her future career might look like, and I know she will go far in her studies and the graphics design industry.”

Holly is currently a freshman at Oklahoma Christian University and majoring in Graphic Design.

Holly and co-workers
Holly and her Sawyer Printing & Promo co-workers. From left: Business Manager Jennifer Blackwell; Graphics Designer Emily Pettijohn; Owner Tim Sawyer; Holly.


Five Ways Employers Can Use People First Language

People First Language refers to an objective and respectful way to speak about individuals with disabilities by emphasizing the person rather than the disability. A primary example includes saying “people with disabilities” rather than saying “the disabled” or “the handicapped.” By speaking and writing about the person before the disability, People First Language helps create a culture of inclusion.

Employers using People First Language in the workplace can help foster a culture of respect that supports the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce as well as a valuable customer base.

Below are five ways employers can use People First Language in the workplace:

  • Verbally: Use People First Language when communicating verbally with employees and customers.
  • Orientation: Include information about People First Language during new employee orientation.
  • Signage: Ensure signage and other posted materials around the workplace include People First Language.
  • Communications: Incorporate People First Language in internal and external digital communications.
  • Meetings: Remind employees about People First Language during staff meetings.

People with disabilities are an underutilized and untapped segment of the workforce. Approximately 1.6 million Texans who are working age have a disability, and roughly a quarter have a bachelor’s degree or higher.1 However, only about half of people who happen to have a disability are employed.2

Did you know that 33 percent of hiring managers and executives reported that employees with disabilities stay in their jobs longer?3 And, employees with disabilities are rated by supervisors as being equally or more productive than coworkers and as achieving equal or better overall job performance.4

So how can employers tap into this large, skilled talent pool? One way is by creating a culture of inclusion by using People First Language as shown in this chart.

Say This in the Workplace Don’t Say This in the Workplace
Accessible parking, bathrooms, etc. Handicapped parking, bathrooms, etc.
Person who uses a wheelchair or a mobility chair Confined to a wheelchair; wheelchair bound
People who are blind or visually impaired The blind
Person with a learning disability Learning disabled

The Texas HireAbility campaign raises awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and highlights the contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce.

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities helps people with developmental disabilities achieve their potential for independence, productivity and integration into their communities.

1 U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates. www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/

2 U.S. Census Bureau, 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates. www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/

3 K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability Collection, Leveling the Playing Field: Attracting, Engaging, and Advancing People with Disabilities. (2013). www.digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/edicollect/1292/

4 Center for Workforce Preparation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Disability: Dispelling the Myths – How People with Disabilities Can Meet Employer Needs. www.ohioemploymentfirst.org/up_doc/Disability_Business_Case.pdf 

Project SEARCH at Seton Healthcare Family Increases Employment Rate for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Project SEARCH at Seton Healthcare Family, part of Ascension, is a business led workforce development effort which successfully prepares and trains individuals with intellectual disabilities for competitive employment. Through yearlong internships, individuals build marketable vocational skills in three areas of the hospital which allows for seamless and total immersion in the workplace.

For the past 10 years, Project SEARCH at Seton has developed strong community collaborations between business, school districts, vocational rehabilitation agencies and other disability service providers all with the same goal of competitive employment for each Project SEARCH participant.

Project SEARCH at Seton collaborated with Texas Workforce Commission on a video demonstrating the benefits of hiring individuals with unique skill sets. In the video, Seton executives discuss the importance of recruiting and retaining a workforce that reflects the community they serve. To date, Seton has a return on investment of about 1.8 million dollars in terms of productive time from Project SEARCH interns over the past 10 years.

For Project SEARCH graduates, this experience is an opportunity to build essential vocational skills in a critical care setting while leveraging their talents. From 2007-2016, Project SEARCH at Seton has graduated 158 interns. Of those graduates, 91 percent transitioned into competitive employment either at Seton or in the community. This is an outstanding result compared to the national unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities, which is over twice the unemployment rate for individuals without disabilities.

Our video profiles three employees, Naomi, Sabrina and Daniel, who discuss how employment through Project SEARCH at Seton has impacted their lives, launched their careers, and ultimately, provided an opportunity for them to play a vital role in healthcare delivery throughout Central Texas.

Texas Workforce Commission is partnering with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and the Texas Workforce Solutions network for a campaign called Texas HireAbility to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

Students Experiencing New Job Opportunities at Careers in Texas Industries Week

Careers in Texas Industries Week logoThe Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, in partnership with local workforce development boards and Tri-Agency partners, is hosting statewide career exploration events for middle and high school students as part of Careers in Texas Industries Week during September 25-30, 2017.

The week is designed to increase awareness among students, parents and counselors about the opportunities of in-demand careers in Texas industries. The events will enable students to explore careers and provide employers with opportunities to showcase the exciting and rewarding careers in their industries.

Workforce Solutions Tarrant County will host an Industry Discovery Expo on September 29. Over 1,800 students are registered to attend, with companies representing industries from around the region set to participate in the event. The aerospace industry’s leading innovators that make up Workforce Solutions’ DFW Regional Aerospace Consortium, such as Lockheed Martin and Airbus Helicopters will be represented at the expo. The Consortium will have a booth and is partnering with the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ aviation program to showcase the FLYBY DFW game app at the Expo.

The FLYBY app was designed to generate interest in aerospace and aviation careers at the elementary, middle and high school level to build a local talent pipeline for employment opportunities. The game features aircraft from local aerospace companies and students earn points for answering aerospace and aviation trivia questions. Students attending the event will be able to play the game and ask questions of the game designers and developers.

“At Lockheed Martin, we believe the success we have experienced in talent recruitment starts at the middle- and high-school levels with career exploration events such as these,” said Jon Gustafson, Lockheed Martin Corporation Economic Development Lead. “This stage of exploration and inquisitive questioning often leads to tomorrow’s innovation. I continue to be inspired and amazed by the talent within the DFW region. If you are not working with your local workforce board to help discover the talent in your area, I encourage you to reach out to them now!” Gustafson continued, “I would like to applaud the Texas Workforce Commission, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County and other Tri-Agency partners for all the work that has gone into the Careers in Texas Industries Week.”

The Industry Discovery Expo runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and some of the participants and activities include a live 3-D printer demonstration, opportunity to talk to recruiters from Lockheed Martin about STEM careers and an Airbus helicopter landing, where students will be able to explore and ask questions about the aviation industry. MedStar will have an ambulance on site to discuss medical careers. Kirkbooth photos will be on hand to take professional headshots for students, highlighting the importance of a professional headshot.

Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County is proud to host our Industry Discovery Expo, on September 29 in recognition of Careers in Texas Industries Week. This is an opportunity for students to explore exciting in-demand career opportunities available to them in the DFW region,” said Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County Executive Director Judy McDonald. “What a competitive advantage we are providing our future workforce to network with some of the top employers and learn about career pathways and possible internship opportunities.”

Other statewide events include:

  • Workforce Solutions Concho Valley
    • Workforce Solutions Concho Valley is hosting their 26th Annual Business Expo and Career Connection where over 300 students are expected to attend. Students will have access to demos presented by industries and business that include Suddenlink Cable, wireless phone companies, nursing and a da Vinci robotic surgical system.
  • Workforce Solutions of the Heart of Texas
    • Workforce Solutions Heart of Texas is hosting over 700 students for their Yes! To Careers in Texas event. The event will feature a cyber café where students can access free Wi-Fi and review Texas Reality Check, Texas Career Check and the Texas Internship Challenge web portals.
  • Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas
    • Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas is hosting a “3-2-1…Careers in Action” video contest for middle and high school students who have interviewed employers, researched job skills, and filmed and edited videos highlighting top industry clusters. Contest finalists will be recognized at a red-carpet premiere featuring a screening of the winning films showcasing career clusters and occupations. Up to $15,000 in prizes will be awarded for winning entries. Prize money will go to sponsoring teachers for their classrooms. This is an opportunity for students and teachers to learn more about the necessary skills, training and certifications needed to pursue career in the filmmaking industry and be hired by local businesses.

Careers in Texas Industries Week will showcase available labor market information tools, including Texas Reality CheckTexas Career Check and Texas Internship Challenge, which assist youth in exploring career opportunities in different industries and plan for their futures.

The Careers in Texas Industries Week website contains event information, outreach materials and links to career exploration tools. TWC will also connect students and educators with employers through the TWC blogFacebookTwitter and LinkedIn webpages. For more information about Careers in Texas Industries Week, go to texasworkforce.org/careerstxindustries.


Texas by the Numbers: Top Occupations in Texas

Recently released employer survey data from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) provides a look at annual wage estimates for over 800 occupations, and highlights top paying jobs in Texas, as well as 10-year projected growth for top industries and occupations.

TWC’s Labor Market Career Information (LMCI) department compiles the data and makes it available to the public. The data includes employment statistics and customized information regarding occupational staffing trends, hiring patterns, salary and local employment history.

Current data shows the top 15 occupations were in healthcare. Other top occupations include chief executives, airline pilots and architects.

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas across Texas.

The Texas Wages and Employment Projections interactive web tool allows users to view a wide range of this wage data, including employment estimates for entry level and experienced level wages.

Here are several quick facts from the most recent Texas occupational employment report:

OES factsheet.png

  • Office and Administrative Support Occupations is the largest occupational group which accounts for 17% of Texas employment or about 2 million jobs.
  • Twelve of the 15 highest paying occupations were healthcare occupations, including several physician and dentist occupations (all paying above $166,000).
  • Registered Nurses, with 207,810 jobs, was the largest healthcare occupation. Most Registered Nurses worked in the General Medical and Surgical Hospitals industry (118,600).
  • Registered Nurses ($70,390) was the largest occupation with above-average wages.
  • Other than registered nurses, the largest healthcare occupations were Nursing Assistants (87,930), Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses (70,810), and Home Health Aides (67,180).
  • All computer occupations pay higher than the mean, median, entry and experienced wages for all occupations combined. Actuaries have the highest average wage of $121,300.
  • The highest paying construction and extraction occupations were Elevator Installers and Repairers ($71,140) and First-Line Supervisors of Construction and Extraction Workers ($68,740).
  • Construction and Extraction occupations had employment of 579,760 in May 2016, representing 4.9 percent of total Texas employment. Over 78 percent (450,000) of these jobs were in construction trades occupations, including Construction Laborers (100,600), First-Line Supervisors of Construction and Extraction Workers (68,270), Electricians (57,540) and Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters (40,530).
  • The largest occupation overall were retail salespersons (383,080) and General Office Clerks (363,020).

To learn more, go to www.tracer2.com. You can also keep up with the latest labor market data on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: May 2016 Texas Occupational Employment and Wages

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New Career Initiative & Programs Prepare Students with Disabilities for Employment

1.PNGTeenagers and young adults who want to jump-start their careers can benefit from Pathways to Careers, a Texas Workforce Commission initiative to expand pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) to students with disabilities. These career-focused services will include work opportunities, such as internships, apprenticeships, summer employment and other job opportunities available throughout the school year.

The first Pathways to Careers program is Summer Earn and Learn which will launch statewide this year. The program will provide 2,000 students with disabilities with work readiness training and paid work experience. The 28 Texas Workforce Solutions Board Offices, in partnership with Texas Workforce Solutions– Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS) staff will implement the Summer Earn and Learn program and coordinate the skills training and paid work experience.

The Boards will identify business partners and pay the students’ wages. Local TWS-VRS offices will assist with recruiting students and providing case management services.

Workforce Solutions Gulf Coast is partnering with the Houston Independent School District (HISD) to launch a Summer Earn and Learn program.

“We’re pleased to partner with HISD in providing summer jobs and career exploration for students with disabilities,” said Gulf Coast Executive Director Mike Temple.” We truly appreciate HISD’s commitment to the future for these young adults.”

Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County is partnering with its local schools and Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth to implement its summer program.

“In addition to Goodwill, other employers we’ve reached out to include CVS Pharmacy, Klein Tools and the City of Mansfield Park and Recreation” said Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County Executive Director Judy McDonald. “Helping students with disabilities gain work-related knowledge and skills is extremely important, and we want to enlist the support of as many employers as possible.”

Other Pathways to Careers programs are still in development or preparing to launch and will expand upon Pre-ETS and career-related education to students with disabilities. Read more about those programs in future editions of Solutions.

Simulating Real Life in the Classroom

Waco High School Automotive Technology class demonstrates classroom equipment. From left: Waco High Auto Tech Teacher Casey Daugherty, TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez, Waco High Auto Tech Teacher Mario Chavez and Waco High Student Ladaruis Rollings.

Creating a learning environment similar to the real world helps jump-start students’ skill sets toward a career in nursing, welding, electrical engineering and software development. To help create these simulated environments, TWC’s Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grants support career and technical education programs in high-demand occupations by defraying the equipment costs for the classrooms.

Laredo Community College (LCC), a JET grant recipient, is a two-campus district serving more than 12,000 students each year through a variety of academic, technical and vocational programs. The school serves many more through its adult education and literacy, continuing education and economic development courses. LCC’s Health Sciences Division prepares graduates with skills needed for employment in the nursing and health science fields. LCC purchased high-tech equipment, including SimMan, SimMom and Sim Junior patient simulator manikins, for real life medical scenarios in preparation for employment in the nursing field.

“With the purchase of these manikins, our nursing department can continue in its mission of providing a topnotch education that will strengthen our medical community by graduating highly skilled nurses,” said LCC President Dr. Ricardo J. Solis. “These state-of-the-art educational tools help ensure our students remain at the head of the pack in such a highly competitive field.”

LCC Associate Degree Nursing students, Monica Colchado and Cynthia Aguilar noted that the equipment gives them an opportunity to experience real hospital emergencies.

“Since no two patients are the same, the simulations have become an excellent tool to provide insight to differences in symptoms, sounds and level of care for a specific health care need,” said Colchado.

“Also, working in the simulation area gives us the flexibility to make mistakes and learn from them,” said Aguilar. Simulation rooms enable students to be highly trained and learn to provide the best care to a patient in a life-threatening situation.

“Students are able to perform a variety of skills and develop their critical thinking skills in a safe learning environment,” said LCC’s Nursing Programs Director Dr. Dianna Miller.

In addition to defraying the start-up costs associated with the development of a career and technical education program, JET funding focuses on projects that target high demand jobs in new or emerging industries.

Waco High School’s (WHS) Automotive Tech program received a JET grant and purchased shop equipment, such as air compressors, toolboxes, tools and new lifts so that the program meets the certification for dual credit with Texas State Technical College. The philosophy of WHS technical programs is to prepare students for a future well-paying career by providing them with the most up-to-date, industry recommended equipment and curriculum. WHS prepares students to be workforce ready and the district provides the local industry with a trained, ready-to-work qualified employee.

“The updated equipment helps the kids have a taste of what they would be using in the real world of automotive repair,” said WHS Automotive Tech Instructor Mark Penney. “They can go out and begin using their knowledge on the job or continuing their education.”

The real-world experience students receive through simulation classrooms not only prepares students for a high-demand job, but helps in determining their career path. The JET grant program allocates $10 million for the FY 2016 – 2017 biennium for eligible educational institutions through a competitive process. During the first year of funding in 2016, 25 grants totaling nearly $5 million will provide training in high-demand occupations for at least 5,394 students. During its second year of funding, 26 grant recipients received funding to train an estimated 4,900 students.

For more information on the TWC program, visit the JET Grant Program page. ■

FIRST Provides Students with Disabilities Opportunities to Compete

When Antonio Haddon started participating in (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) FIRST Robotics, he never knew he would develop such a passion for learning.

Photo: Heather Noel / http://www.dallasinnovates.com

“What I like most about robotics is building the robot, driving the robot and working together as a team while we cheer each other on.”

Haddon, a senior at Sunset High School in Dallas drives robots as a part of team RoboFlash 6751, the first robotics team to be comprised of students with disabilities. The students competed at the Dallas Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) on March 8-11 in Irving and won one of their matches.

In 2016, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) supported 270 FIRST teams across the state through a grant totaling $1 million to the FIRST in Texas Foundation, inspiring nearly 4,200 students to be leaders in science and technology by engaging them in exciting, mentor-based programs that promote innovation, build skills for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, and foster well-rounded life skills.

Working in teams to solve complex problems and create a working robot, these competitions equip students with STEM applied learning opportunities.

“I felt that I gained a lot of respect from other teams,” said Haddon. “I proved to myself that I can drive in a robotics competition despite my disabilities.”

TWC supports youth education programs that prepare students for high-demand careers through its partnership with after-school robotics programs. Support for hands-on learning activities in robotics continues to grow as shown by the University Interscholastic League’s decision to officially sanction statewide robotics competitions.

“Students participating in the FIRST in Texas Robotics Competition at the University Interscholastic League (UIL) State Championship in Austin and at the International competition in Houston showcased their ingenuity, teamwork and prowess in STEM skills,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “Texas employees and teachers who mentor these students are inspiring future Texas innovators by helping them develop and apply their programming, technical, engineering and other skills needed to succeed in the dynamic Texas economy. TWC is proud to support this successful and inspiring STEM strategy.”

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The programs encompass age-appropriate, hands-on activities for K-12 students. “As the demand for qualified STEM professionals continues to grow for Texas employers, programs like FIRST Robotics give students a strong start,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “Through the FIRST grants, we are proud to lay the groundwork by providing opportunities for 4,190 students throughout Texas to gain new skills and real-world experiences.”

Photo: Heather Noel / http://www.dallasinnovates.com

FIRST provides opportunities for all ages. Students ages six to 10 start with FIRST LEGO Leagues Jr., which introduces STEM concepts through LEGO elements. Students in 4th-8th grades can start FIRST LEGO League teams and are challenged to develop solutions to real world problems all while building and programming a robot.

High school teams compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FRC. FTC is considered the junior varsity level competition, where teams of up to 10 students receive a robot kit and are challenged to design, build and program their robots to compete against other teams.

FRC is considered the “ultimate sport for the mind.” It involves teams comprised of at least 25 students and adult mentors who must raise funds, design a team “brand” and build a robot to perform tasks based on real-world engineering challenges. Each season culminates with top teams competing at the FIRST Championship.

The RoboFlash 6751 team introduced students with intellectual disabilities such as autism, learning disabilities and Down syndrome to the competition and to apply their skills on the team. This special robotics program has helped bring awareness to providing learning opportunities for all students including individuals with disabilities and presents opportunities for companies to hire students as future engineers and computer programmers.

“TWC is dedicated to supporting FIRST Robotics as the positive impact this program has on Texas students continues to grow in innovative ways,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “The labor force of Texas must continue to innovate and programs like FIRST provide the training and skills our students need to compete.”

The results of a Brandeis University evaluation survey indicated that FIRST programs encourage participants to consider STEM-related careers. FIRST participants are two times as likely to major in science or engineering. Over 75 percent of FIRST alumni enter in-demand STEM fields as a student or professional after they graduate high school.