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.

Stories of Success: Skills for Small Business

2 females freelancers-480179894.jpgThe Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Skills for Small Business program helps businesses with less than 100 employees train new workers or upgrade the skills of current workers. Since the program began, TWC has allocated $2 million in funding to support collaborations between Workforce Solutions partners and small businesses.

Small businesses account for 97% of employers in Texas. In recognition of National Small Business Week, we’re celebrating our state’s 483,430 private-sector employers with fewer than 100 employees and sharing their success stories through the training received through grants from Skills for Small Business to improve the skills of their employees and build a stronger workforce throughout the state.

Davidson Oil Company – Amarillo, TX

  • The Davidson Oil Family of Companies received a Skills for Small Business grant in partnership with Amarillo College.  By attending the project management course, project managers and team managers learned the skills needed to complete projects on time, on budget, and meet deadline goals as well as speak and understand the universal language of project management.  “We have recently successfully added a fourth and fifth entity to the Davidson Oil Family of Companies using the skills learned by participating in the market development course and several employees have also become forklift operator certified,” said Amy Ross, Learning and Development Manager at Davidson Oil.” Not only are our employees developing their own skills, which is a great engagement tool, we are seeing more productivity in our workforce, better decision making and more effective communication occurring.”

Diamond Enterprises – Ranger, TX

  • Ranger College received a Skills for Small Business grant to provide training identified by area business and industry. The training is provided at no cost to qualifying industry. Training topics may include certification-based training such as: forklift operator, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), QuickBooks, welding, machining and hydraulics. “The ability to compete for specific contracts require we provide and document required certification-based training, such as HAZMAT [hazardous material] and respiratory protection” Says Domingo Perez, CEO of Diamond P Enterprises. “Ranger College scheduled the grant-funded training in a weekend format, which allowed our employees to take advantage of the course. Gaining the HAZMAT certifications allowed us the opportunity to retain existing jobs, and add new employees. In addition, this training allows additional opportunities in today’s global market for our expansion into the distribution and warehousing for manufacturers and vendors nationwide.”

Solar CenTex – Killeen, TX

  • Solar CenTex, now a Solar Power World Top-500 national solar contractor, trained its initial workforce through a Skills for Small Business grant. Partnering with Central Texas College, Solar Centex took military veterans from the adjacent Fort Hood and trained them on basic and advanced solar photovoltaic installation skills. “I knew I had great people with the right character, but I needed to get them the right training and solar-specific skillset. The SSB [Skils for Small Business program] and Central Texas College helped us get there,” said Scot Arey, Founder and Owner of Solar Centex. “These same first-on-board employees are now our senior leaders four years in. They have continued to grow as the company has. It all started with the training they received.” Solar CenTex recently opened another office in San Angelo and is ready to use additional Skills for Small Business training to enlarge its workforce.

Through the Skills for Small Business grant program, eligible small businesses can receive 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.

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.

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

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 follow 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.

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

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

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.

 

Free training helps small business meet new regulations

Hamburger from Sweet's Shop
Sweet’s Shop has been serving 100 percent, old fashioned hamburgers to Snyder residents since 1954. Photo credit Sweet’s Shop Facebook page.

In 2015, Legislation relating to training courses for certain food handlers was passed in an effort to eliminate food borne illnesses. The Texas Food Establishment Rules became effective in Oct. 2015 and gave businesses one year to provide training to all food service employees.

For small businesses without a large training budget, providing the training to even a small staff can become a challenge.

However, one Snyder restaurant Sweet’s Shop, went to Western Texas College to discuss their training needs and learned about the Texas Workforce Commission’s Skills for Small Business program.

The Skills for Small Business program provides businesses with fewer than 100 employees, state-funded training to meet their business needs with an emphasis on training new workers or upgrading skills of incumbent workers.

Donna Cutler, director of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at Western Texas College, encourages small businesses to apply.

“TWC has established a very user friendly system and this program is a great way for small businesses to provide better training for their small workforce,” said Cutler.

When a qualifying small business identifies a training need, courses may be selected from classes offered at their local community or technical college.

Western Texas College worked with Sweet’s Shop to coordinate the food handling training needed for eight workers at the restaurant and provided certificates of completion.

Sweet’s Shop’s Cruz Aviles found the application process to be easy and has advice for other small businesses.

“Take advantage of this program,” said Aviles. “You will learn from it and definitely get something out of it.”

Skills for Small Business provides tuition and fees for employees who participate in an existing course applicable to a business need. Up to $1,800 may be approved for newly hired workers and existing employees may be eligible for up to $900. Newly hired workers include those who were hired within 12 months prior to receipt of the application.

Through their partnership with Western Texas College, Sweet’s Shop was able to meet the new legislation ahead of the effective date for compliance.

In addition to the food handler’s certification, Sweet’s Shop owners attended courses in marketing, Photoshop and QuickBooks.

Donna Cutler has observed how the Skills for Small Business program can make a huge impact.

“Especially on the small businesses that would really be struggling to find money for training,” said Cutler. “This program has allowed them to get the training they need at no cost.”

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.

TWC launches paperless unemployment claim correspondence for employers

Stay on top of your unemployment claim correspondence with Electronic Correspondence for Employers with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). TWC Employer Benefits Services now offers a secure online mailbox for quick and easy access to unemployment claim documents.

small business owners
small business owners

Using your Employer Benefits Services account, you can have:

  • 24-7 access – online access to claim documents anytime from a secure inbox
  • Secure access – one administrator controls access and permission levels for multiple users
  • Faster processing – maximize response time to deadlines on multiple unemployment claims

Employers can go paperless by signing up to receive Unemployment Claim correspondence electronically, instead of through postal mail service.

For online access to unemployment claim correspondence, sign up for Electronic Correspondence using our new Employer Benefits Services system. Electronic Correspondence allows you to receive most, but not all, of the unemployment claim notices concerning your TWC account, such as the Notice of Unemployment Claim Application, claim determinations and chargeback forms. Employers must have a TWC tax account number to register for this service.

At this time, TWC must continue to use postal mail to send the following documents to employers:

  • Appeals correspondence, such as hearing notices or appeal decisions
  • Tax correspondence, such as status change forms, and adjustment reports

To sign up for this convenient service, go to the Employer Benefits Services webpage. You can also obtain helpful information on How to Use Employer Benefits Services or view the Tutorial on Electronic Correspondence.