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 (TWS-VRS) 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

Dominque

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, Dominque began his summer employment with the Clements Boys & Girls Club Woody Hall Unit. Witnessing Dominque’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.

“Dominque 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 Dominque’s desire to learn and the receptive interaction between him and the younger students. Clements Boys & Girls Club offered to retain Dominque after the Summer Earn and Learn program ended, and he enthusiastically accepted the offer to continue his employment. Dominque is also assisting the unit with its athletic programs.

“I enjoy coaching and motivating youth when they think they are defeated,” said Dominque. “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.

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.

SunsetRobotics-HN_7416
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.”

xSunsetRobotics-HN_7294
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.

College Credit for Heroes Supports Four New Programs for Veterans

Nick St. Clair (1).jpgThe Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) recently announced the award of over $1 million to support four new accelerated certificate or degree programs through its College Credit for Heroes (CCH) program, a statewide effort designed to maximize the award of college credit to veterans and service members for their military experience.

Since the program’s inception, more than 85,000 veterans have created accounts at CollegeCreditforHeroes.org. An estimated 27,000 veterans have received evaluations with an average of 16 credit hours awarded per student from participating colleges and universities.

Nick St. Clair served as a medical specialist, practical nurse and field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. After leaving the service, he applied for the nursing school program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), a College Credit for Heroes partner school, and was referred to the program. St. Clair was awarded nine service credit hours and used the credit to obtain his Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2016.

“I began my adult life as a medic, practical nurse and hospital educator in the Army and absolutely loved it,” said St. Clair. “After some time away from patients, I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to return to my first professional love.”

St. Clair is currently employed as a registered nurse at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He credits his success to the College Credit for Heroes program and TTUHSC’s unique program for veterans with his military background.

“With the College Credit for Heroes grant, the university created the Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) track, an accelerated program for veterans with prior military medical training and experiences who want to obtain a nursing degree,” said TTUHSC VBSN Director Debbie Sikes.

“Nick was among our first VBSN graduating class, which included six other students. Success of the VBSN track was demonstrated by all seven students passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) on their first attempt and becoming employed as registered nurses,” she said.

New 2017 programs that received funding through College Credit for Heroes

  • Dallas County Community College District — $262,977 to develop the Veterans Education Transition program, designed to create an accelerated transition to a civilian career by replicating existing programs developed by Grayson College and Lee College.
  • Houston Community College — $472,687 to develop a veterans academy for veterans and service members to assess prior military experiences and provide employment.
  • Lee College — $145,457 to establish an accelerated emergency medical technician program.
  • Texas State University — $145,495 to create Accelerate TXState, an online prior learning assessment curriculum

For more information about College Credit for Heroes partner schools or to register for the program, visit CollegeCreditForHeroes.org.

For more information on workforce programs available for Texas veterans, visit the TWC veterans’ resource page.

Future Leaders of Science & Engineering Workforce Compete at Annual State Science Fair in San Antonio

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More than 1,200 of the best and brightest young science and engineering minds from across the state displayed their projects at the Texas Science and Engineering Fair (TXSEF) on April 1. The fair, which was hosted by The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), is co-sponsored by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and ExxonMobil.

Students competed in 22 life and physical science project categories. The top two projects in the life science and physical science disciplines earned first and second grand prize recognitions, and from among these winners, one individual in each division was selected for the Best-of-Show designations.

This year’s junior division Best-of-Show winner, Tatiana Streidl of North Texas Academy of Higher Learning Middle School in Frisco, earned the honor for her project on “Unplanned Ingredients Investigating the Chemical Transfer of Cl2 NO3 NO2 Cr6 CHO2,” which explores potential health problems in paper plates.

The senior division Best-of-Show was awarded to Kshitij Sachan and Yesh Doctor of Plano East Senior High School in Plano, who presented a project on “Site Specific Genomic Integration of Large DNA Fragments.”

The top two finishers in each category (51 students in total) at the TXSEF from the senior division were awarded scholarships to attend the Texas Governor’s Science and Technology Champions Academy, a week long residential summer camp, also sponsored by TWC, which will be held at Southern Methodist University.

The Governor’s Science and Technology Champions Academy and the Texas Science and Engineering Fair are two of TWC’s many programs designed to encourage students to learn and participate in STEM activities to acquire the knowledge and skills to equip them for in-demand occupations.

TWC supports programs including robotics that encourage students to participate in STEM programs and pursue postsecondary degrees and careers in these in-demand fields.

Governor’s Summer Merit Program
This summer, Texas Workforce Commission awarded 18 grants totaling more than $1.26 million to Texas universities and community colleges for summer youth camps that focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through the Governor’s Summer Merit Program. The grants provide the opportunity for 1,351 students, ages 14 to 21 to attend camps that will help prepare them for future high skill, high-demand jobs.

The Governor’s Summer Merit Program aims to inspire Texas youth to pursue STEM-related careers. The camps introduce students to future careers available in advanced technologies and manufacturing, aerospace and defense, biotechnology and life sciences, information and computer technology, and energy.

Several of the camps are specifically targeted to encourage young women and minorities to pursue further education and careers in STEM fields.

Some students will have the opportunity to take field trips that will give them access to high-tech equipment, such as 3-D printers and electron telescopes, while others will visit science and engineering facilities and have the opportunity to meet and speak with industry professionals.

Camp Code
New for this year, TWC awarded eight grants totaling $599,681 for Camp Code to focus on increasing the interest of middle school girls in computer coding and computer science by providing summer camps. Camp Code will offer hands-on experiences that provide students with challenging and innovative concepts and experiences in learning, problem solving and analytical skills while fostering an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related careers with a focus on computer science.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, only 26 percent of employees in computer and mathematical occupations in Texas were women. The grants awarded to independent school districts, universities and higher education institutions are designed to spark girls’ interests in careers in computer programming from an early age, and for young women to consider careers in these highly sought after fields.

Creating summer camps that offer computer science projects that incorporate art and storytelling with robotics, video games, websites and applications can also further interest in the coding field. The coding education includes the most in-demand and popular computer science languages, such as Java, SQL, C++, Net, Perl, Ruby and JavaScript.

Camp Code provides students with activities and lessons that encourage their interest in high technology, such as working in teams to use programming languages to build games, web pages and robots. These activities can enhance girls’ interest in the industry and inspire them to pursue coding as their career.

Four Tips for Making the Most of Your Internship

IMG_0302.JPGNow that you’ve landed an internship, make sure to make the most of it. Internships can be a direct path to a full-time position. Research indicates that 60% of employers prefer candidates with relevant work experience, and 73% of interns are offered a full-time position. If this is your first time working in a professional environment, consider these tips to make a positive impression.

  1. Be Prepared: Make sure to research the company you will be interning for and understand its mission and products or services. Read the company website, look up your supervisor and key executives on LinkedIn, and connect with the company’s social media channels. You want to end the internship with either a great professional reference or a full-time job offer. Go into the experience knowing who you want to build relationships with to make those opportunities happen.
  2. Be Professional: Understand the company’s expectations for exhibiting professional behavior and attire. Remember that you will be working with colleagues and customers of all ages and backgrounds; always be professional and respectful through your words and actions. Be punctual and work hard. Stay focused on assignments and only use your mobile devices during breaks. Pay attention to details. Proofread your work before turning it in; proofread emails before sending.
  3. Be Proactive: Seek out opportunities to add value. When your work is done, ask if anyone needs help.  If you hear about someone working on something of interest to you, ask if you can help and explain how your experience can add a relevant perspective. If you see an opportunity the company could take but its employees haven’t had time yet, offer to help get the project started.
  4. Be a Team Player: Many employers indicate one of the most important skills is the ability to work with a team. Understand how your role as an intern supports the team and its objectives. Make sure to fulfill your role, offer to support others as needed, and be willing and flexible to fill in gaps to contribute to a team effort.

The Texas Internship Challenge is a campaign to increase and promote paid internships for Texas students. Go to www.TXInternshipChallenge.com to search and apply for positions.