The Texas Workforce Commission: 20 Years of Innovative Leadership in Workforce Development

The men and women of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) are preparing to enter the agency’s third decade of service just as they did when the agency began in 1996, by consolidating agencies and programs, and planning for integration of services that will provide streamlined connections to employment for all Texans.

Twenty years ago, 28 employment-related workforce, training and education programs from 10 agencies consolidated to create the Texas Workforce Commission. Over the years, other programs and agencies have joined the amalgamation, and with the upcoming addition of vocational rehabilitation programs from the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) this September, the efforts to connect all Texans with good jobs, and all Texas employers with skilled workers, will again expand through the integration of services and programs.

Also 20 years ago, the integrated model of regional workforce service delivery was born through the creation of the Texas Workforce System network that would later become known as Texas Workforce Solutions. The Texas model for locally controlled, market-driven integrated service delivery was subsequently incorporated into federal legislation that guides workforce programs across the nation including the Wagner-Peyser Act Amendment of 1998, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2015.

“The visionaries that created our model for workforce services, established a system that continues to allow for flexible solutions to local workforce needs that serve the employers of our state and the communities we serve well,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “Over the years, we have continued to find innovative ways to form partnerships and leverage resources to address the state’s workforce needs head on.”

Today, TWC and 28 independent local workforce development boards along with adult education partners (added through the transfer of the Adult Education and Literacy program to TWC in 2013) comprise Texas Workforce Solutions. The accomplishments that span the history of the TWC and the Workforce Solutions network are numerous.

During this 20-year span, millions of Texans have received employment services. These services include job placement, assistance with job -search resources, résumé and application preparation, job training and referrals, and many more. Most employment services are provided through Workforce Solutions offices, or career centers, located throughout the state and operated by the Workforce Solutions boards.

Texas Workforce Solutions Permian Basin Executive Director Willie Taylor has been the leader of that region’s local board since the inception of the Texas model and has seen how the system’s design has evolved over the years.

“Now that our system has matured, it gives me great pleasure to see how we are more flexible and responsive to industry needs and to job seekers, and are building a solid partnership with education,” said Taylor. “Thanks to the leadership and staff at TWC and the collaboration between TWC and the local boards, our Texas model is truly changing the lives of customers in our communities.”

Judy McDonald, executive director of Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County has also seen how Texas’ position as a national leader in workforce development has served her community and the state over the past 20 years.

“It has been our great luck to be in the state that is leading innovation in workforce development,” said McDonald. “The Texas system vision has allowed for local flexibility to collaboratively innovate and design the delivery of services. I believe this respect for local intelligence and creativity has resulted in a much more effective, efficient and responsive system. In the last two decades, together we have transformed the depth of our community impact and achieved legendary statewide success.”

The needs of employers are key to the success of this community –focused system. Over the past two decades, the emphasis on employer engagement has tripled the number of employers utilizing workforce system services each year. An estimated 90,000 employers will be served by the Workforce Solutions network this year through employee training programs, applicant screening and referrals, job fairs, analysis of labor market information and many other customized services that help equip Texas businesses with the skilled workforce they need.

“Texas has gained the recognition of being the best state for business, and is committed to serving Texas employers,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “The evolution of services provided by the Texas Workforce Solutions network, has played a huge role in job creation and the economic prosperity of our state and we can take pride in all that this agency has accomplished.”

The state’s Skills Development Fund job-training program is one example of a successful program that serves employers, workers and communities by providing in-demand skills training. The program has expanded over the years and has helped create or upgrade more than 334,800 jobs since its inception which coincides with the 1996 creation of TWC. Recent expansions of the program have funded specialized training for small businesses and veterans.

One important TWC contribution to the pro-business climate in Texas has come through leveraging resources and applying innovative bond strategies to keep the employer tax burden to a minimum, even during tumultuous periods that resulted from national economic downturns.

During those downturns and other difficult times, TWC has provided millions of job seekers who found themselves without work, through no fault of their own, with unemployment benefits to help them get by until they were able to return to work. In 2005, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, more than 134,000 Texans received unemployment assistance after being separated from employment as a result of the storms. In addition, Texas Workforce Solutions kicked into high gear to support thousands of displaced families from along the Gulf Coast who were impacted by the storms.

“Helping individuals connect to employment opportunities that will set them on a course for a prosperous career path is vital to our state’s success,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “This agency and its partners will build on the achievements of the past 20 years and continue to support initiatives that will make these connections possible.”

One such initiative came in 2004, with the launch of a first-of-its kind statewide job matching website called WorkInTexas.com. Since its launch, more than 2.4 million jobs have been filled through connections made from the site. Over the years, the site has undergone continual refinement and enhancements and today boasts more than 250,000 current job openings and more than 425,000 active résumés.

In 2008, TWC created the Texas Veterans Leadership Program to provide military service members with peer-guided assistance as they transition to civilian life and work. Many other veteran-focused initiatives including the College Credit for Heroes program and the Hiring Red, White and You! statewide hiring events have been added to help our returning heroes quickly transition to civilian careers.

The Workforce Solutions network has provided other support services like child care and transportation assistance to millions of Texans to help them overcome barriers to access training and employment.

The ongoing mission of the Texas Workforce Commission and its Workforce Solutions partners is to maximize the power of innovation and partnerships to boost superior business outcomes and realize a competitive advantage for all Texans in the global economy. Through consolidation and integration of state programs and services that address that mission and collaborating with other agencies and community partners, TWC can build on its rich history and take on the next 20 years with the spirit of initiative that has served it throughout its history.