TWC and Kendra Scott Partner to Create Stability for Workers with Disabilities

Anything is Possible with VR Counselors

By Talan Tyminski

Since she founded her company in in 2002, designer, humanitarian and successful entrepreneur, CEO Kendra Scott, whose global company bears her namesake, has operated the business based on her core values—family, fashion and philanthropy. Yet for Nick Hentschel, an Austin based employee, the company means so much more. For Nick, the modern office space and yellow-gold type font also signals stability, a concept that was foreign to him before joining the Kendra family.

Nick Hentschel on the Kendra Scott Distribution Floor

Nick was diagnosed with autism when he was thirty-seven, a late diagnosis that helped provide context to why despite desperately wanting to work, he bounced between jobs since graduating college. Since entering the workforce, Nick had a sense of waiting to be fired from any position he held which left him jumping between offices and at times stressed. Adding to this stress was that due to his disabilities, Nick cannot drive which can make finding and keeping a full-time position in Austin near impossible regardless of a disability.

In 2018, Nick’s mom, worried about her son, shared a heartfelt plea on Facebook with other parents of children living with autism to see if anyone was aware of resources to help Nick find stable employment. Thanks to his mother’s note, Nick met Jennifer Hines. Jennifer is a Board Certified and Licensed Behavior Analyst and a State Neurodevelopmental Program Specialist at the Texas Workforce Commission. Jennifer connected Nick to his Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselor BK Hines, who worked to establish a plan for employment.  That led them to Tracy Ray, an Employment Service Provider, and together they developed a game plan to find and support Nick with employment.

Tracy lead the charge. She believed that Kendra Scott would be the perfect place for Nick to grow and find a home due to their focus on family and desire to foster inclusion. She began writing letters to the company’s human resources department to set up an interview.  Kendra Scott responded alerting Tracy to an opening in their South Austin distribution center. The job was perfect; Nick would be following clear cut directions, gathering orders and packaging boxes. The black and white nature of the position eliminated ambiguity and the stress that often comes with problem solving. Tracy worked with Alysa Bolda, a Human Resources Business representative at the Kendra Scott distribution center, to set up the interview as well as make accommodations for the process.

Alysa Bolda, Human Resources, Kendra Scott

“Tracy was the most supportive. She supplied us with articles and suggested that rather than asking Nick to recall experiences we do a hands-on interview,” said Bolda. “We showed him how to make a box, and he showed us how to do it right back.”

Before meeting and working with Nick, Alysa admitted she did not know much about individuals with autism, only what had been portrayed in the media. Tracy’s involvement and preparation for the interview were essential in not only securing Nick the job but helping Alysa and her staff set up accommodations.

At the end of 2018, Kendra Scott hired Nick as a seasonal employee and today he is a full-time employee. This status means that for the first time, Nick has full benefits, something to which he is still getting used.

“To put a twist on an old phrase, when you’re used to unequal treatment, equality feels like an accommodation,” said Nick. “There’s a difference between normalcy and character, and often employers look at people with disabilities in terms of normalcy rather than the quality of their character.”

Nick’s position at Kendra Scott has improved not just his life but the lives of those who interact with him daily. Since starting at the distribution center, Nick has connected with co-workers fostering a sense of empathy and compassion among his peers. One co-worker even went above and beyond to create a visual representation of one of Nick’s job assignments to help him learn.

As a company, Kendra Scott is taking pro-active steps to ensure that all employees feel included. The company’s Human Resources Department has scheduled training with local VR staff from Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services to be sure they are making all the accommodations necessary and are fostering a supportive environment for individuals such as Nick.

The big yellow sign above the floor of the distribution center reads anything is possible. For Nick, joining the Kendra Scott team has truly made anything possible. Nick has gone from worrying about how he is going to make his next rent payment to planning for the future. He wants to go back to school and follow his passion of one day teaching history.

When asked about the company’s commitment to inclusion, Founder and CEO Kendra Scott explained “At Kendra Scott, we are proud to be leading that charge. As disability awareness increases, businesses must adapt to the idea that every one of us is different and may require different needs in the workplace. Our differences open our eyes to new ways of thinking and solving problems and allow us to connect with our customers in a way that leaves them feeling a genuine sense of connection.”

Nick at his work station

Child Care and Early Learning is being reorganized as a full Division within the Texas Workforce Commission

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Effective September 1st, Child Care & Early Learning is being reorganized as a full Division within the Texas Workforce Commission, reporting directly to the Executive Director, Mr. Ed Serna.

The Division will be led by Ms. Reagan Miller.

In this capacity, she will continue to oversee the child care subsidy program, the Texas Rising Star quality rating improvement system, and other child care quality improvement efforts.

A Labor Day Message from the Commissioners of the Texas Workforce Commission

0Photo: Commissioner Representing Employers Aaron S. Demerson, Chairman Bryan Daniel, and Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez.

We are strong, we are Texas, and we are hardworking Americans. We all work hard to earn a living, to move forward in life and to be able to give our family everything they need.

This Labor Day weekend, we at Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) dedicate a special greeting to those who strive every day to give the best to their family – to place food on the table.  You, as working Texans, are the individuals who move the economy of this great state and therefore deserve multiple congratulations.  You are the number one reason new Texas businesses move here every day.

This holiday, TWC recognizes the more than 14 million workers who are the backbone of our strong Texas economy. The state’s economic miracle is directly linked to the innovation and competitiveness of employers in a range of growing industries providing workers with more opportunities to demonstrate their world-class skills. However, that would not be possible without our workers.

A look back in review, this past year has been remarkable for Texas.  The Texas labor market continues to add jobs with the addition of 323,300 positions added between July 2018 and July 2019. Our state’s unemployment rate remained at a historic low of 3.4 percent in July, slightly below the national rate of 3.7 percent. We are laying the foundation for a better tomorrow.

This Labor Day offers us the opportunity to not only celebrate our workers and recognize our employers but also reaffirm our strong commitment to ensuring every Texan has equal opportunity. We take this time to encourage employers to allow us to connect them with workers from diverse and talented populations who are eager to put their skills to work. We can help employers learn the benefits of hiring veterans through programs such as Texas Operation Welcome Home and assist with recruiting, hiring, retaining and accommodating employees with disabilities.

We understand the importance of putting Texans to work. TWC and the state’s 28 local workforce development boards, and over 200 Workforce Solutions offices, partner with local economic development organizations, community colleges and other stakeholders to ensure workers have access to job opportunities and to prepare the growing workforce with the advanced skills needed to allow for continued job growth throughout the state of Texas. Additionally, in order to assist individuals in preparing for career opportunities, the Skills Development Fund and Skills for Small Business programs aim to help employers create new jobs and/or upgrade the skills of their current workforce.

The TWC and Texas Workforce Solutions family are grateful for the contributions that Texas’ workers have made to strengthen and prosper our state. As you enjoy this holiday with family or friends, we thank you for helping to make Texas the best place to live and work!

Bryan Daniel, Chairman, Commissioner Representing the Public

Julian Alvarez, Commissioner Representing Labor

Aaron Demerson, Commissioner Representing Employers

Hope Springs Eternal: New collaborative program in Texas prison gives female inmates opportunities to ‘dwell in possibility’ – and join the industry workforce

By Margaret Hession

Sometimes the best quotes have a special power to inspire us to change our mindset, see things from a fresh perspective, and perhaps propel us into action.

“I dwell in possibility,” said the poet Emily Dickinson. She also stated, “Hope springs eternal.”

At Lockhart Correctional Facility in Lockhart, Texas—a minimum-security prison located in Caldwell County, 32 miles from downtown Austin and better known for its barbecue than its jail—on every wall, along every corridor in the facility, female inmates have painted their favorite inspiring quotes with murals, including quotes by Dickinson.

Lockhart Correctional Facility believes in second chances for its inmates and prepping these females for future work success. It provides many work opportunities, educational and vocational programs to its offenders and is managed by Management & Training Corporation (MTC) who believe in rehabilitation through educational opportunities. Their motto is BIONIC (an acronym for Believe it or not I care).

One of the new pilot programs teaches female inmates trade skills in manufacturing to set them up for employment in industry upon their release into society.

“I was brought in in shackles and released in shackles. Today, for my graduation ceremony, I walked in the front door like everyone else—a free woman, only this time I have a college certificate and an industry certification,” said Casey Brem, 35 of Midland, wiping tears from her face.

Brem is one of 14 students who graduated on August 24, 2019 from the Certified Production Technician program.  She was released early in July, but continued her studies for the program at home and then voluntarily returned to the facility via a 5-hour drive from Midland with her mother to graduate alongside her 13 fellow students.

While completing the course work through ACC, the 14 students also took their national manufacturing certification assessments with a nearly 100% success rate and walked across the stage to receive their diploma from their Engineering Program Instructor, Rosalba Schramm, and Don Tracy, the administrator of ACC correctional educational program.

“This program would not have been made possible without the partnership between Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital (WSRCA), the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and Lockhart Correctional Facility who went above and beyond,” said Tracy, from the podium where he called out each of the inmates by their first name and acknowledged the journey they had taken together.

“It takes partnerships. Meanwhile, these women have worked so tremendously hard,” Tracy continued. “They’ve earned this.”

The training is funded through a Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) program and utilized existing manufacturing equipment available within the industry program at the facility.

What will happen after graduation? As each participant has a different release date from incarceration after they graduate from the program, they will work closely with TWC Workforce Solutions Rural Capital case managers to review career options with local employers in Hays and Caldwell counties (and other WFS offices across the state) to leverage their certifications.

“It was an honor to help celebrate with these graduates and their families as they accomplished this milestone in their personal and professional lives,” said Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area CEO Paul Fletcher. “This manufacturing certification program came as a result of listening to the workforce needs of our industry partners, and then tapping into our strong community partnerships to deliver training solutions.”

“Today tells us what can be done when thinking outside the box happens with people with big ideas and big hearts,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez, who was the main commencement speaker at the graduation. He received no less than eight standing ovations from the inmates and their families.

“With a 3.4% unemployment rate in Texas, this is precisely the way we become innovative in our thinking and solve a shortage for skilled workers. Everyone deserves a second chance and these hardworking and inspiring women today only reinforce that message in magnitude,” Alvarez continued.

This is the first time ACC and WSRCA has partnered with the staff at the prison to offer a program like this. Nevertheless, it seems likely to be repeated with funding for the second cohort already approved.

Warden Jennifer Brown believes in the program and in its ability to change lives for her inmates.

“We all make mistakes and these are someone’s mother or future mother—someone’s sister or daughter,” said Warden Brown – a female with 27 years in the prison industry who stood up to clap for each of her graduating inmates—and who got her own standing ovation.

“These women deserve every opportunity to become all they can be, improve their circumstances and have a second chance at improving their lives,” Brown continued. “I’m so grateful to The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and others who without their support none of this would be possible,” Brown added.   

If adequate employment, training and certification is a prerequisite for successful re-entry into society for all inmates, then this program has already succeeded.

The inmates believe in the importance of the pilot program although some expressed surprise that females were included in the first ever pilot.  

“I couldn’t believe they would offer this opportunity first to women. They rarely if ever offer things first to women,” said Alison Albanese, 36, of Corpus Christi, during her commencement speech, fighting back tears and drawing tears from all of her cohorts. “We are just so grateful. You don’t know how grateful we are,” Albanese continued.

When asked what she would tell an employer who might be hesitant to hire an ex-offender, fighting back tears, as she held onto her own daughter who came to see her mom walk the stage, Misty Campbell, 46, of Amarillo, stopped thoughtfully, looked at her daughter, and then wiped tears from her eyes.

“They should know that we have to work three times as hard as a non-offender and we know that. We have to work harder to establish that trust more than anyone else does.  We are just happy for the opportunity to be treated like human beings and we will do whatever it takes,” Campbell stated.

“I’m not the same person who walked in here 4 years ago. This certification has built up my confidence. It has given me hope,” Campbell continued. “I’m ready for another chance.  I am stronger this time. I’ll do better.”

Sometimes hope does spring eternal.

To see a KXAN video story of these students please click here:

200 Incarcerated Students Receive Associates Degrees from the Lee College Huntsville Center

It’s Never Too Late.

Most are familiar with the adage that states, “If you think you can and if you think you can’t, you’re right.” On June 22, 2019, a graduation took place to celebrate those who looked in the mirror and said, “I think I can.”

Thanks to hard work, determination, and a desire to improve their circumstances, nearly 200 incarcerated students (Students) received their Associates Degrees. As part of a collaboration between the Lee College Huntsville Center and the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Initiative, Students were given access to postsecondary courses and have now earned their degrees.

Texas Workforce Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez was invited to the facility to meet the graduates and provide the commencement speech for the ceremony.

A graduating inmate looking to the left with a Nelson Mandela quote that reads, "Education is the most poweful weapon which you can use to change the world."

“A postsecondary degree is a vital step towards finding good paying jobs that lead to financial security,” said Commissioner Alvarez. “I’m proud of the individuals at the Lee College Huntsville Center. We’ve all had obstacles in our lives, some beyond our control, that can be difficult to overcome. I applaud the resolve of these Students as they work to ensure that when the time comes they are properly prepared to find fulfilling careers as part of the thriving Texas workforce.”

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, so prison education programs that provide opportunities for Students to reenter society with the tools for success are essential. With a focus on promoting degrees aimed at creating self-sufficient Students ready to fill high demand jobs, institutions like the Lee College Huntsville Center are not only enriching the lives of their Students but bettering the community around them.

“Education in prison works,” said Dr. Michael Gary, a Professor at Lee College. “If you get your associate degree, the recidivism rate’s about 10 percent—90 percent stay out, 10 percent come back. With no higher education, the recidivism rate’s about 60 percent—you stand a better than 50-50 chance of coming back to prison.”

For these, and future grads, the TWC will be there to support them when they are ready to reenter the workforce. Utilizing a $100,000 Fidelity Bond Grant that will be available on July 1, 2019, the TWC will be able to coordinate with local boards to apply these funds to help at-risk job applicants, such as ex-offenders, get and keep jobs. Through free fidelity bonding, a type of insurance policy that protects the employer against employee acts of dishonesty such as larceny, embezzlement, and theft, the TWC and the Workforce Development Boards can reduce employers’ concerns about hiring at-risk job applicants who cannot be bonded through other sources.

Either the job applicant or the prospective employer can request bonding through any Workforce Solutions office. If the applicant is eligible, bonding coverage is effective immediately following certification or on the applicant’s first day of work once certified.

A rewarding career that provides job security and peace of mind should be available to all Texans no matter their circumstances. Through TWC sponsored Fidelity Bonding and programs like those available at the Lee College Huntsville Center, a historically underserved population is being given the chance to say, “I think I can,” and better their lives through education.

Gig ’em! Texas A&M inspires next generation of STEM students by hosting the 2019 Texas Science and Engineering Fair

For the competitors, it all began as nothing more than an idea, a concept, a dream. Next came the challenging and arduous process of pushing the boundaries of science to turn those ideas into reality. No matter the reason they took that first step, the results were spectacular and on display at the 2019 Texas Science and Engineering Fair (TXSEF) hosted by Texas A&M University.

2019 marked the first year that Texas A&M University hosted the event and on March 30th students arrived in College Station to vie for top prizes in 22 project categories. These future engineers and scientists of Texas presented their work to judges and showcased their commitment to improving the world around them through innovation.

Chair Hughs with TXSEF Officials

“Texas is a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and thanks to the over 1,400 Texas middle and high school students who competed in the 18th Annual Science Fair at Texas A&M University, the future looks bright,” said TWC Chair Ruth R. Hughs. “These students will enter into an increasingly competitive job market with the applied skills in STEM disciplines that are highly coveted by Texas employers. It is important that the state continues to support the next generation by offering them opportunities like the TXSEF where they are provided an amazing platform to demonstrate their tremendous talents.”

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Chair Hughs poses with TXSEF competitors

The projects on display at the event were a reminder of our scientific evolution. There were no erupting volcanoes or bubbling, smoking beakers from a chemistry set. This is the new, modern science fair where helmets control robotic hands, engines are rebuilt to be more efficient, and where you’ll meet students who decided to act when they saw family members with disabilities struggling to do something as simple as visit relatives.

Madison Burke and Anushka Aggarwai, first place winners in the Junior Division for Systems Software, saw the struggles their family members with disabilities were having with everyday travel and developed software to address this. Their program helps people with disabilities travel safer and more efficiently. Young students with a passion and talent for STEM saw a need and acted.

“This event was a tremendous celebration of innovation and we were proud to welcome these young students to Texas A&M University to showcase their creativity,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, Texas A&M Engineering vice chancellor and dean. “Participation at the state-level competition is a significant accomplishment and speaks volumes about the support these students have received from their teachers and schools.”

“The Texas Science and Engineering Fair offers a great opportunity for the youth of Texas to learn more about science and engineering, which can lead to future career choices in these areas,” said Truman Bell, chairman of the TXSEF Advisory Board and manager of community relations for ExxonMobil Corporation. “ExxonMobil is pleased to support this effort which will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

There is a shortage of students pursuing careers in STEM, and while this trend continues to be addressed, on a cold and overcast day in College Station the future of Texas looked positively radiant. Texas, its labor force, and the labor force of the world, is going to have a highly intelligent and enthusiastic group of student leaders entering the workforce with the ideas and passion to shape the future.

TXSEF students and projects

Celebrating Texas’ First-Ever CTE Signing Day

With high school graduation nearing, many students across Texas are considering their next move be it a traditional or non-traditional route that will involve future careers, job prospects, and potential earnings.

For a group of four students from Beaumont, Jaalah Baaheth, Seth Carl, Savanna Mitchell, and

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TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez with CTE Signing Day Participants

Nick Walker, the decision to continue with their education was met with much celebration and applause from the State Legislature in Austin as well as Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Texas Education Agency and Lamar Institute of Technology. These students took part in the first-ever State of Texas Career and Technical Education (CTE) Signing Day.

The celebration kicked off with Texas State Representative James White reading resolution HR 241 on the House floor declaring March 8th Texas’ CTE Signing Day. After the formal reading, the students joined TWC Commissioners Ruth Hughs, Julian Alvarez, and representatives from Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT) for a scholarship signing ceremony and reception held at the Texas Workforce Commission building in Austin, Texas.

“There were so many more people there than I thought would be, and it showed that there were a lot more people behind us,” said Jaalah Baaheth, a Biology student at Lamar Institute of Technology. “[Signing day is] going to push me to study harder because I now know people are depending on me. I know that I can do this because there are a whole bunch of people rooting for me.”

CTE Signing Day, meanwhile, was modeled after traditional athletic signing days to celebrate Career and Technical Education. Each of the students received $3,000, a $2,000 ExxonMobil scholarship and LIT President Dr. Lonnie L. Howard surprised the recipients with a personal $1,000 Presidential scholarship, to attend Lamar Institute of Technology and pursue their chosen career track. Fittingly, the Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT) slogan boasts “Get a degree that works,” and is precisely what these students will do. Apparently, 92.8% of students who attend Lamar Institute of Technology find a career after graduation and the school ranks number one in the state for the most significant salary for graduates among two-year colleges.

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Students at CTE Signing Day

“There was nothing more exciting than CTE signing day for our students, the parents, and our staff. That level of excitement is still there. The word is spreading,” said Lamar Institute of Technology President Dr. Lonnie Howard. “I want to commend Rep. White, Commissioner Alvarez and all of TWC. It was a breathtaking moment for the students and me. It is something that I will not only remember for my professional career but a moment in time that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

LIT focuses on Career and Technical Education programs that offer a sequence of courses that provide students with relevant technical skills and knowledge needed to prepare for further education and careers in high-demand and emerging industries.

“CTE often flies under the radar, but it’s something that needs more attention,” said Seth Carl, CTE signing day participant studying business. “[This scholarship] is definitely a head start and it will help me better prepare for a future career.”

All the while, demand for highly skilled workers continues to grow across Texas even though the narrative taught to students in classrooms across the state places a higher value on traditional four-year degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2012 and 2022 there will be 50,557,900 jobs openings for CTE graduates in 16 different career clusters. CTE Signing Day aims to encourage students to take the less traditional route and consider their job prospects and future earnings.

“It’s really easy to feel pressured to go to a four-year school,” said Savanna Mitchell, Scholarship Recipient studying for her 30-hour OSHA certification which has a projected annual earnings of $72,000. “My Mom and I talked about my options and how there were more opportunities for me at a two-year school than there were at a traditional four-year. Other students should focus on their own personal requirements and desires when deciding what is best for them.”

As Jaalah, Seth, Savanna and Nick gear up for high school graduation and their new career paths, the Texas Workforce Commission continues the celebration, working to expand CTE Signing Day across the state. By sparking enthusiasm for CTE programs and the students choosing to attend them, Texas can come one step closer to meeting industry demands for highly skilled workers. “I want to thank you for sharing this day and for being a wonderful example of what our workforce has to offer,” said Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “Your hard work and dedication will be recognized by our leading Texas industries.”

CTE Signing Day supports the goals of the Tri-Agency by recognizing the important role that Career and Technical Education curriculum provides in ensuring a skilled future workforce. For more information visit regarding CTE signing day:


WACO Project Helps Students and Young Adults With Disabilities Explore Career Options in a Living, Learning Environment

Zack, a 19-year-old Texan, is at a stage in life like most of his fellow high school peers; they are contemplating their future and career options. So, when Zack and his dad learned of the Work and College Opportunity (WACO) project, they welcomed the opportunity for Zack to participate in the five-week residential summer work and college training program held at Texas A&M University for young adults with disabilities aged 18-22.

Zack, WACO project
Zack, attending class during his stay at Texas A&M.

The project launched in 2014, has assisted more than 70 students in the span of five summers, and is funded by federal and state vocational rehabilitation funds.

During their stay, WACO project participants learn to live independently on the campus while socially integrating into the larger Bryan/College Station community. Along with Texas A&M, WACO project partners include the Center on Disability and Development, Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living, and Texas Workforces Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS). The WACO project serves customers from several Workforce Solutions areas including Brazos Valley, Capital Area, Central Texas, Deep East Texas, Heart of Texas, Gulf Coast, and Rural Capital.

“We first learned of the WACO project from [TWS-VRS Transition Counselor] Luis Castillo and later Zack’s visual instructor at our high school,” said Zack’s parents, Rick and Kris.

“WACO project is a work and college opportunity where customers can find a purpose, water it, nurture it and watch it grow into something meaningful,” said Castillo. “I knew it would be a great fit for Zack and his parents.”

The WACO project serves teens and young adults with disabilities to help them successfully transition into postsecondary education and employment. Participants attend classes specially designed to build confidence and audit other college classes based on their career interests.

“In my classes I learned how to act professionally, how to speak and what to wear,” said Zack. “I also had a class on self-determination, deciding on what I want to do next [for my career] and not giving up.”

WACO project participants attend classes during the morning. In the afternoon, they travel to their workplaces and receive work-based learning experiences as paid interns.

Zack’s work assignment was at Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a non-profit that resells building and home supplies, including furniture and appliances. It was Zack’s first job.

“Getting my first paycheck felt really good. It made me feel like I accomplished something, said Zack. “I helped my co-workers maintain the store and restore the merchandise, making it presentable. I really enjoyed working at ReStore. I had a goal going in, to buy a new TV.  I met that goal and had additional money to buy things that I needed or wanted.”

Each evening after work, students brush up on their independent living and social skills. Activities include preparing evening meals; learning to use public and other transportation options; participating in various recreational and social activities; completing homework assignments; and preparing for the next days’ schedule.

At the end of their five-week stay, students share their overall experience and learned experiences with their family and WACO project staff, who advise students on their performance and long-term goals.

“During his exit interview, WACO project staff noted Zack’s growth, independence and willingness to help others,” said Zack’s dad, Rick. “I saw the same and for us, as parents, we [Zack’s mom Kris and I] realized the need to learn to let go and understand that Zack will survive. The experience was great for everyone involved.”

What Zack liked the most about his experience with the WACO project was the helpfulness of staff. “Everyone was so friendly. If I had a problem I could go to one of the college staff members, [TWS-VRS Transition Counselor] Luis or another TWS-VRS counselor if I needed help right off the bat.”

After graduating high school, Zack plans to attend college.  He’s still researching his choice of schools and major.

Texas’ Unemployment Rate in November Remains at Historic Low 3.7%

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment was 3.7 percent in November, remaining at the same historic 42-year low it was in October. The Texas economy added 14,000 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in November. Annual employment growth for Texas was 3.0 percent in November, marking 103 consecutive months of annual growth.

“The addition of 365,400 jobs over the year and 14,000 jobs in November demonstrates the consistency with which employers in our state create job opportunities for the highly skilled Texas workforce,” said TWC Chair Ruth R. Hughs. “The Texas economy offers employers access to a competitive workforce and provides job seekers with career options in a variety of growing Texas industries. The numbers are a testament to the resilience of our Texas employers and the diversity of our Texas economy.”

The Manufacturing Industry recorded the largest private-industry employment gain over the month with 9,100 jobs added and led all industries in growth.

In Texas’ private Service Providing sector, Trade, Transportation, and Utilities added 8,900 positions in November. Also within this sector, Professional and Business Services added 1,800 followed by Information, which added 1,000 positions.

November Texas Labor Data

“Employment demand continues to be high in well-paying industries such as Manufacturing, Construction, and Mining and Logging,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “I encourage career exploration in these and other industries that are growing in Texas. TWC’s labor market information tools and products are designed to inform, prepare and advance our Texas workforce. Visit a Workforce Solutions Office to find out more about the latest employment opportunities available.”

The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.1 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA which had the second lowest with a rate of 2.5 percent. The Odessa MSA recorded the third lowest rate of 2.6 percent.

“We have much to be proud of in Texas as we enter the holidays celebrating another month of record-low unemployment and sustained job growth,” said TWC Commissioner Representing the Public Robert D. Thomas. “While we reflect thankfully on the contributions from employers and individuals who made this tremendous record of success possible, we remain steadfastly committed to fostering continued job creation through economic development strategies and collaborative efforts to provide opportunities for all Texans to enjoy self-sufficiency and prosperity.”

Employment estimates released by TWC are produced in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. All estimates are subject to revision. To access this and more employment data, visit

To see the full November Texas Labor Market release, please visit the TWC website.

Follow us on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter for more updates about Texas Labor Market Data.

TWC Executive Director Larry Temple Recognized with Lifetime Achievement Hand Up Award by AIFE

The American Institute for Full Employment (AIFE),  a nationwide reemployment think tank, has recognized Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Executive Director Larry Temple with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Hand Up Award.

TWC Executive Director Larry Temple“Larry is a bright light for all who know him,” said AIFE president John Courtney. “His inventive ideas, unwavering optimism, drive and exceptional humor have paved a path for important innovation not only in Texas but across the United States.”

Mr. Temple has led TWC for more than 20 years, and has guided the agency to a place where TWC serves its varying constituencies—job seekers, employers, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, unemployment insurance recipients—with a focus on excellent customer service, but also efficiency.

Under his leadership, TWC has grown to 5,000 personnel, with an operating budget of $2 billion. His advocacy for the agency and for its customers has been steadfast and he has done much to further the goals and reputation of TWC during his tenure.

TWC Executive Director Larry Temple giving opening remarks at the 2017 TWC Workforce Conference.
TWC Executive Director Larry Temple giving opening remarks at the 2017 TWC Workforce Conference.

“Larry has been generous with other states, offering advice and inviting peers and their teams to Texas to study, replicate and collaborate with his department on best practices, ” noted AIFE in its award announcement. “Under his leadership, TWC has also actively helped other state workforce agencies in times of crisis. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the TWC unemployment insurance division immediately stepped up and began taking tens of thousands of claims for the Louisiana Workforce Commission, at a time when Texas was dealing with its own catastrophic damage.”

Lary Temple participating in a graduation ceremony at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, an innovative, residential vocational rehabilitation training facility serving adults who are legally blind.
TWC Executive Director Larry Temple participating in a graduation ceremony at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, an innovative, residential vocational rehabilitation training facility serving adults who are legally blind.

Mr. Temple’s dedication to public service does not end with his service to TWC. He serves as a member of Texas’ P-16 Council, which coordinates policy for Pre-k through the 12th grade public education and higher education. He also serves on the Texas Workforce Investment Council, which is charged with development strategic planning and evaluation that promotes a well-educated and highly skilled workforce.

Prior to serving at TWC, Mr. Temple was the deputy executive director for Mississippi’s Department of Human Services, and led initiatives that helped pave the way for the landmark national welfare reforms of the 1990s. He has also served in a variety of roles at National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), including president and board member, and took part in the American Public Human Services Association’s (APHSA) leadership council.

Mr. Temple brings to the job over 20 years of private-sector management experience in energy, retail and real estate development. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from St. Edwards University where he serves as a member of the Advisory Council.

TWC Executive Director Larry Temple speaking at the launch of the “Texas Internship Challenge,” a statewide campaign to increase and promote internships for students in Texas.
TWC Executive Director Larry Temple speaking at the launch of the “Texas Internship Challenge,” a statewide campaign to increase and promote internships for students in Texas.

“Larry is a great gift to the cause of full employment in America and it’s an honor to give him this award,” Courtney added “He has created a Texas-sized legacy for all those who have known him over the years and for the millions who’ve benefitted from what he and his teams have accomplished.”

Mr. Temple’s commitment to helping Texas maintain a competitive workforce has helped TWC work toward its mission to promote and support an effective workforce system that offers employers, individuals and communities the opportunity to achieve and sustain economic prosperity.

TWC Executive Director Larry Temple, Chair & Commissioner Ruth R. Hughs, former Deputy Director for Workforce Solutions Reagan Miller and Vocational Rehabilitation Services Director Cheryl Fuller at the White Cane Day March in Austin, to celebrate and raise awareness about the independence of people with visual disabilities.
TWC Executive Director Larry Temple, Chair & Commissioner Ruth R. Hughs, former Deputy Director for Workforce Solutions Reagan Miller and Vocational Rehabilitation Services Director Cheryl Fuller at the White Cane Day March in Austin, to celebrate and raise awareness about the independence of people with visual disabilities.

Please join us in congratulating Mr. Temple on this great honor, and for being a dedicated advocate for Texas’ workforce.

See the full announcement and learn more about his background and achievements in the AIFE award announcement.