From Combat Medic to Master’s in Communication: Army Veteran Advances Education, Career Opportunities through Texas Operation Welcome Home

U.S. Army Veteran, Texas State Graduate Student David Beadle
Photo: U.S. Army Veteran and Texas State Graduate Student David Beadle

Military veterans and their spouses have an array of options to bolster their transition into civilian life. But as U.S. Army Veteran David Beadle and many others have discovered, Texas goes one step further in its commitment to honoring our nation’s heroes, by offering a program to provide a seamless transition to employment.

David is one of more than 1.5 million veterans estimated to call Texas home. In response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s charge to identify gaps in services to veterans, Texas Operation Welcome Home (TOWH) was created to assist and provide training opportunities to recently separated service members preparing for employment in high-growth, high-demand occupations.

The goal of the program is to provide a clear pathway for veterans such as David, as they move into civilian employment in the Lone Star State, by eliminating obstacles to attaining licensing, certification, accreditation and degree awards, so that veterans transition quickly into the workforce.

David, meanwhile, is a testimony that clear pathways help. David served as a combat medic for five years in the Army.

U.S. Army Spc. David Beadle's basic training graduation photo
Photo: U.S. Army Spc. David Beadle during basic training

He said when he left the service in 2003, as a Specialist (E-4), he wasn’t sure what path to follow as a civilian as he settled in the Austin area.

“I attended college through the years, but I spent the majority of that time working and kind of building my own career,” he said. “I looked for a career change and in doing that I realized I wanted to add more marketable skills.”

In 2015, David enrolled in the Occupational, Workforce and Leadership Studies (OWLS) program at Texas State, which works in partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the Texas Workforce Solutions network.

David said the difference at school this time was that he tapped into the veterans’ network at the university, which helped him map out a clear plan to earn his degree.

“Through the OWLS program I was able to take the military experience that I had and transfer that over into college credit. Unlike other universities, the credits that they transferred from the military were actually applicable to my degree plan,” David said.

David credits the support of the TWC-backed veterans program, and his peers, for expediting his transition.

“I was lucky enough to find a few other veterans in the program who helped remind me that I wasn’t the only one managing school and life,” he said. “That social element was a key component in completing my degree.”

In 2017, David graduated from Texas State with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree, with a focus on Business and Sociology. He stayed on at the university to pursue a Master’s degree in Communication Studies.

David now helps fellow veterans and Bobcats navigate the challenges of academic work as a Communications Graduate Instructional Assistant at Texas State. He encourages veterans to take advantage of programs such as TOWH to expedite their career goals, and offered some advice based on his experiences.

“The best advice I can give veterans on the same path is to talk to people,” David said. “Ask for help. Keep moving forward towards a goal and don’t stop chipping away at it — it will happen!”

Texas Operation Welcome Home LogoTo learn more about resources available just for veterans in Texas, as well as training and employment opportunities statewide, please visit the Texas Operation Welcome Home website.

TWC Texas Two Step Tour Swings through South Texas to Listen, Learn from Rural Communities

“I don’t know how to two-step, but what I do know how to do is work together, and you know when you two step you have a partner. And so, it’s no good for me to just be the left leg if I don’t include the right leg. And so, what we are doing here, when we do the two step, we’re in unison, we’re working together.”

— TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez

What is a Listening Tour?

When a state agency and its program officers from Austin take the time to travel to rural areas across South Texas and listen to locals, communities, employers, individuals and stakeholders, the agency benefits with greater understanding, deeper insights and more valuable perspectives about the people it serves.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is more accessible than most people may realize. Through more than 200 Workforce Centers and satellite offices across the state of Texas, and 130 Vocational Rehabilitation field offices, TWC connects job seekers and employers with workforce development services and training — but TWC wanted to hear directly from multiple stakeholders: Local workforce boards, employers, economic development corporations, independent school districts superintendents, trainers, counselors, non-profits, chambers, elected officials and constituents.  That’s why TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez and TWC staff representing several TWC programs embarked on a South Texas listening tour, April 9-13, 2018.

Where Did We Go?

The group visited six specific Workforce Board regions: Lower Rio, South Texas, Cameron County, Coastal Bend, Alamo and Capital Area Workforce Development Areas taking along staff from TWC’s Skills Development Fund; Vocational Rehabilitation program; Apprenticeship program; and Adult Education and Literacy program. City stops included Brownsville, Laredo, Corpus Christi, San Diego, San Antonio/Hondo and Austin.

Texas Two Step Boot Tour logo and map of Workforce Board areas that were visited in South Texas

Why Did We Go?

  1. Listen and learn from rural communities. Allow stakeholders to tell their stories, share their struggles and their successes.
  2. Build strong relationships with rural communities and determine how to work together as a team with workforce development and training services in mind.
  3. Educate on our workforce and training program staff, generate new interest from individuals we might not normally hear from, and bring better services.
  4. Exit with takeaways to use as next action items.

“The primary goal of our tour was to help people feel heard, educate them on our workforce and training programs, generate new interest from individuals we wouldn’t normally hear from, bringing better services to local communities,” Commissioner Alvarez stated. “Having a transparent and informative conversation is one of the best exercises you can do to improve your program.”

Commissioner Alvarez explained that many Texans cannot afford to make it to Austin to discuss their workforce development experience and needs, and that others may simply be unaware of what TWC services are available.

Which Programs Went on Tour?

TWC Program Managers pose in front of the Texas Capitol with signs announcing the tour kickoff
Photo: TWC Program Managers kicked off the Texas Two Step Boot Tour from Austin and headed to Brownsville for the first listening tour stop.
  1. Skills Development Fund
  2. Adult Education and Literacy (AEL)
  3. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
  4. Apprenticeship

Since TWC staff fielded so many questions about essential programs, we asked the staff to offer an overview of major TWC programs:

1. The Skills Development Fund is Texas’ premier job-training program providing local customized training opportunities for Texas businesses and workers to increase skill levels and wages of the Texas workforce. The Texas Workforce Commission administers funding for the program. Success is achieved through collaboration among businesses, public community and technical colleges, Workforce Development Boards and economic development partners.

2. Adult Education and Literacy providers are organizations with instructors delivering English language, math, reading, writing and workforce training instruction to help adult students acquire the skills needed to succeed in the workforce, earn a high school equivalency, and enter and succeed in college or workforce training. TWC contracts with a wide variety of organizations to provide AEL instruction and promote an increased opportunity for adult learners to transition to post-secondary education, training or employment.

3. The Vocational Rehabilitation program helps people with disabilities prepare for, find or retain employment and helps youth and students prepare for post-secondary opportunities.  The program also helps businesses and employers recruit, retain and accommodate employees with disabilities. The program serves adults with disabilities; youth and students with disabilities and businesses and employers.

4. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced journey workers with related classroom instruction. Most registered apprenticeship training programs last from three to five years as determined by industry standards.

Highlights of the Texas Two Step Listening Tour

Day 1 – April 9 – Brownsville: Workforce Solutions – Cameron

The 2018 Texas Two Step Tour began with a stop in Brownsville, to visit with the Cameron County Workforce Board.

A forum was held at the Texas Southmost College Performing Arts Center.

While there were multiple questions asked at the Texas Southmost College, one major realization realized from the overall discussion is the severity of the skilled trades “skills gap” in the area and the need to continue the development of technical and skilled trades programs at both the high school and college levels to close those gaps as soon as possible.

TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez and the Texas Two Step Boot Tour team appear on stage at Texas Southmost College Performing Arts Center.
Photo: Attendees of the Labor Boot Tour learned about customized training through Skills Development and Apprenticeship.

This conversation was followed by attendees of the Labor Boot Tour learning directly about customized training through our Skills Development and Apprenticeship teams discussing TWC programs.

While seated on stage among fellow program managers, TWC Director of Employer Initiatives Aaron Demerson speaks into a microphone to discuss the Skills Development Fund to stakeholders in Brownsville.
Photo: TWC Director of Employer Initiatives Aaron Demerson discusses the Skills Development Fund to stakeholders in Brownsville.

Commissioner Alvarez noted that worker training is the key as the Rio Grande Valley transforms from an agricultural economy to an advance manufacturing, aerospace, maritime and LNG economy.

Invited stakeholders included Career & Technical educators, college tech-ed officials, Economic Development Corporaitons, and the Port of Brownsville–all of whom gave brief presentations of what they are working on, and the need for continued TWC funding assistance to be successful–particularly increased JET funding for the next biennium.

An overall realization demonstrated was the severity of the skilled trades “skills gap” in the area and the need to continue the development of technical and skilled trades programs at both the high school and college levels to close those gaps as soon as possible.

“All-in-all, [today] was enlightening to a large and varied audience, and the resulting sense of urgency to continue building CTE capacity in our schools and colleges was an overriding outcome.  We sincerely thank Commissioner Alvarez and his staff for their dedication and availability, and appreciate their passion for what they do for the great State of Texas.”

— Marisa Almaraz, WFS – Cameron Executive Assistant

Day 1 – April 9 Continued – Mission: Workforce Solutions – Lower Rio Grande Valley

In Mission, Texas, the Two Step Tour participants were hosted by Workforce Solutions-Lower Rio Grande,  and began with an in-depth tour of Royal Technologies, an advanced engineering and manufacturing company that services diverse industries.

Royal Technologies takes TWC Texas Two Step Program Staff on a tour of their manufacturing facility.
Photo: Royal Technologies takes TWC Program Staff on a tour of their manufacturing facility.
The group tours the inside of the Royal Technologies work space
Photo: Tour of the Royal Technologies work space.

Highlights of the tour included viewing how automation and robotics are used by companies such as Royal Technologies, to create labor costs efficiencies, and how a manufacturing company serves both automobile and technology markets in North America and Mexico.

The tour was followed by a stakeholder meeting at South Texas College Technology Campus in McAllen, for the larger group Q&A discussion where Commissioner Alvarez, and TWC key staff from Austin, provided stakeholders pertinent information about programs and services available to the region.

TWC Program Directors field questions from the listening forum attendees in Mission.
Photo: TWC Program Directors field questions from the listening forum attendees in Mission.

TWC staff engaged in one-on-one discussions with stakeholders representing economic development corporations, business, education and community based organizations.

Mission’s Key Economic Development Drivers:

  • Maximizing and leveraging partnerships and information to better serve individuals with disabilities.
  • Development of innovative partnerships and programs through apprenticeship programs: TWC’s Desi Holmes answered various questions regarding apprenticeship programs and shared best practices (as seen across the state) in efforts to create programs that enables individuals to obtain workplace-relevant knowledge and skills.
  • Overall, creating responsive programs to meet the needs of business.
TWC Staff, Workforce Solutions – Lower Rio Grande Valley Staff, and area stakeholders join for a photo at the Mission listening forum.
Photo: TWC Staff, Workforce Solutions – Lower Rio Grande Valley Staff, and area stakeholders join for a photo at the Mission listening forum.

“The Texas Workforce Commission Texas Two Step Listening Tour hosted by Workforce Solutions-Lower Rio was an enormous success and beneficial to our community stakeholders.  Perhaps the most notable experience for the attendees was that TWC key staff and subject matter experts were so readily available to respond immediately to stakeholder questions and offer additional resources and information to pursue programs, services and grant awards available through TWC.  The real-time technical assistance was invaluable for those in attendance. TWCs responsiveness and availability equips our stakeholders to develop responsive solutions.”

— Arcelia Sanchez, Business Representative, WFS Lower Rio

Day 2 – April 10 – Laredo: Workforce Solutions – South Texas

During the visit with Workforce Solutions of South Texas, the team visited Lyndon B. Johnson High School.

Rogelio Trevino ED WFS South Texas takes TWC Program staffers on a tour of LBJ High School in Laredo, to see JET and Dual Credit funding at work.
Photo: Rogelio Trevino ED WFS South Texas takes TWC Program staffers on a tour of LBJ High School in Laredo, to see JET and Dual Credit funding at work.
Students at LBJ High School work on life-sized computer simulated cadavers made possible through dual credit funding.
Photo: Students at LBJ High School work on life-sized computer simulated cadavers made possible through dual credit funding.

The team then visited the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Regional Campus Laredo.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz welcomes Commissioner Alvarez and TWC Program Directors to Laredo.
Photo: Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz welcomes Commissioner Alvarez and TWC Program Directors to Laredo.
Two Step Tour staff fielded questions from participants of the stakeholder listening forum.
Photo: Two Step Tour staff fielded questions from participants of the stakeholder listening forum.

The team then visited Doctors Hospital of Laredo.

The Boot Tour team visits Doctors Hospital in Laredo to see Skills Development dollars in action.
Photo: The Boot Tour team visits Doctors Hospital in Laredo to see Skills Development dollars in action.

Day 3 – April 11 – San Diego: Workforce Solutions – Coastal Bend

Commissioner Alvarez and the Boot Tour team kicked-off day three at San Diego High School with Superintendent Dr. Samuel Bueno and Principal Claudette Garcia.

San Diego Early College High School students show off their classroom hospital room lab stations to TWC staff.
Photo: San Diego Early College High School students show off their classroom hospital room lab stations to TWC staff.

The group toured the Certified Nursing Assistant and Welding programs funded by the JET and Dual Credit grants provided by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Welding students at San Diego High School talk about the benefits of their CTE education with TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez.
Photo: Welding students at San Diego High School talk about the benefits of their CTE education with TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez.

Day 3 – April 11 Continued – Corpus Christi: Workforce Solutions – Coastal Bend

The Two Step Tour group then moved on to Corpus Christi to meet with staff at the Workforce Solutions – Coastal Bend, as well as area stakeholders.

Superintendents of the Calallen and Flour Bluff Independent School Districts briefed the group on their Career and Technology Programs.

TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez returns to the classroom to chat with superintendents from Calallen and Flour Bluff Independent School Districts.
Photo: TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez returns to the classroom to chat with superintendents from Calallen and Flour Bluff Independent School Districts.

Iain Vasey, president of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation, provided an overview of the Coastal Bend economy and $50 billion in current regional projects.

Iain Vasey, president of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation, provided an overview of the Coastal Bend economy and $50 billion in current regional projects.
Photo: Iain Vasey, president of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation, provided an overview of the Coastal Bend economy and $50 billion in current regional projects.

The visit concluded with a tour of the Craft Training Center of the Coastal Bend.

Dr. Mike Sandroussi gives a tour of the Craft Learning Center to Commissioner Alvarez and TWC Program Staff.
Photo: Dr. Mike Sandroussi gives a tour of the Craft Learning Center to Commissioner Alvarez and TWC Program Staff.
Commissioner Alvarez points to a graphic on a vehicle that points out that the Craft Learning Center partners with WFS Coastal Bend for Workforce Training
Photo: Craft Learning Center partners with WFS Coastal Bend for Workforce Training.

Day 4 – April 12 – San Antonio: Workforce Solutions – Alamo

The Boot Tour team visited Workforce Solutions Alamo on day four and hosted a listening session and invitation for questions.

Workforce Solutions Alamo and Two Step Tour participants site around a u shaped table for their talking and listening session.
Photo: Workforce Solutions Alamo welcomes 2018 Texas Two Step Boot Tour.

San Antonio’s Important Topics:

  • Dr. Bruce Leslie, Chancellor, Alamo Colleges – provided an overview of Alamo INSTITUTES which consist of six categories: Creative & Communication Arts; Business & Entrepreneurship; Health & Biosciences; Advanced Manufacturing & Logistics; Public Service; and Science & Technology.
  • Pooja Tripathi, Project Coordinator – Workforce Services, Bexar County Economic Development Department and Mary Batch, Assistant Manager, Human Resource Development (HRD), Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc. – provided an overview of TXFAME.
  • David J. Zammiello, Executive Director Project Quest – provided an organizational overview. The mission of Project QUEST is to strengthen the economy by providing expert support and resources to develop a pipeline of highly qualified employees for in-demand occupations that offer a living wage, benefits and a career path.
  • Ryan Lugalia-Hollan, Executive Director P16 Plus – Mission statement is to ensure that all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future. Programs designed to help youth understand and master the concepts and challenges of basic personal finance investments in programs to build a pipeline of STEM-capable students.
  • Steve Hussain, Chief Mission Officer, Goodwill Industries of San Antonio – Good Careers Academy – Goodwill San Antonio’s goal is to provide an educated workforce empowered to reach their career and life goals and achieve self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. Particularly focus on empowering individuals who face barriers in gaining employment by providing education, training, career services and robust service coordination.
  • Juan Antonio Flores, Executive Vice President, Governmental Relations, Port San Antonio –provided an overview. Home to over 70 tenant customers who directly employ about 12,000 fellow citizens.
  • David Meadows, City of San Antonio Economic Development Department (EDD) – provided an overview. Development of Workforce Development Division. EDD has funded workforce agencies for many years but only started developing policy around workforce development over the last couple of years.

The second portion of the tour took place at Accenture Federal Services (AFS). Ali Bokhari, AFS Delivery Network Director, Accenture Federal Services, provided an overview and tour of the facility. Romanita Mata-Barrera, SA Works, was able to join the group and partake in the discussion.

A group of Texas Two Step and Workforce Solutions Alamo staffers pose for a photo at Accenture Federal Services
Photo: Accenture Tour showcasing their varied services and jobs to the Texas Two Step Boot Tour.

Accenture’s Important Topics: 

  • Vocational Rehabilitation – discussion regarding the partnership Accenture Federal Services has developed with Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation San Antonio location regarding the employment of people with disabilities. This is an ongoing partnership with not only TWC Vocational Rehabilitation staff but also WSA staff.
  • On-the-Job-Training – discussion regarding how AFS and WSA are collaborating in providing OJT noting obstacles that have been encountered.
  • Apprenticeship – AFS provided a review of their in-house apprenticeship program.
Texas Two Step Tour members pose for a group photo inside the Accenture Federal Services headquarters in San Antonio.
Photo: Texas Two Step Tour members pose for a group photo inside the Accenture Federal Services headquarters in San Antonio.

This portion of the tour brought the team back to the Board Office.

Carolyn King, Director Grants and Clinical Education Operations, Methodist Healthcare System of San Antonio provided an overview of the various initiatives Methodist Healthcare System of San Antonio has utilized focusing on TWC grant funding. Mark Milton, Senior Director of Workforce Operations, Goodwill Industries of San Antonio – Good Careers Academy was also in attendance.

Some of the Items Discussed:

  • Retention opportunities utilizing Goodwill, Project Quest as well as Alamo Colleges.
  • Interview Skills, helping students determine the best fit. Interviewing with numerous departments at the same time. This has been successful for not only the students but the respective supervisors.
  • Utilization of Skills Development Funds.
Tour of the Goodwill Good Careers Academy in San Antonio.
Photo: Tour of the Goodwill Good Careers Academy in San Antonio.

The final leg of the visit to San Antonio was a guided tour of the Goodwill – Good Careers Academy, located at 406 West Commerce St., San Antonio, 78207.

Mark Milton, Senior Director of Workforce Operations, Goodwill Industries of San Antonio – Good Careers Academy provided the tour. Steve Hussain, Chief Mission Officer welcomed the team to Good Careers Academy.

Some of the items highlighted were the classroom, as that particular Good Careers Academy hosts students from Fox Tech High School.

Day 4 – April 12 Continued – Hondo: Workforce Solutions – Alamo

This portion of the tour took place at South Texas Regional Training Center (STRTC) 402 Carter St., Hondo 78861 (Medina County).

Members of the Two Step Tour and Workforce Solutions Alamo meet around a table with stakeholders in Hondo.
Photo: A view of the stakeholder listening forum in Hondo.

Hondo Mayor James Danner, and Jesse M. Perez, of the City of Hondo, Economic Development Department, provided an overview of workforce initiatives in Hondo/Medina County.

Hondo Key Economic Development Drivers:

  • In 2013 the City of Hondo initiated discussions with Goodwill Good Careers Academy to bring CNA course and other technical courses to the STRTC. And agreement with Hondo High School and Goodwill was created to offer CNA to Hondo High School Seniors.
  • In 2014 Concordia University began offering a Master’s Degree for teachers and BS Degree for Teachers’ Aides seeking to become teachers.

    Commissioner Julian Alvarez presents a TWC Challenge Coin to Hondo Director of Economic Development Jesse M. Perez.
    Photo: Commissioner Julian Alvarez presents a TWC Challenge Coin to Hondo Director of Economic Development Jesse M. Perez.
  • In 2016 the City of Hondo Economic Development Corporation (COHEDC) approved $285,000 to renovate 5,000 sq. ft. of vacant space into an allied health training suite and create two additional multi-purpose classrooms.
  • In 2016, the City of Hondo and COHEDC submitted a request to the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) for a $960,000 grant with a $240,000 local match to build an annex for vocational/technical courses. EDA approved the grant request and are in the process of making arrangements to build the annex.
  • In January 2016 WSA leased space to provide workforce development services in Medina County at STRTC.
  • In 2017, together with WSA and Southern Career Institute (SCI) CNA courses were offered to adults. SCI provides the instruction. WSA provides funding for qualified adults.
A group photo from the stakeholder listening forum in Hondo.
Photo: A group photo from the stakeholder listening forum in Hondo.

Day 5 – April 13 – Austin: Workforce Solutions – Capital Area

The Texas Two Step Boot Tour team met with Workforce Solutions of the Capital Area staff on day five.

The team toured St. David’s North Austin Medical Center.

Members of the Two Step Boot Tour visit a maternity delivery room at St. David's North Austin Medical Center which features training tools to simulate a mother and newborn child.
Photo: Members of the Two Step Boot Tour visit a maternity delivery room at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center which features training tools to simulate a mother and newborn child.

The team also toured the Austin Community College ACCelerator Laboratory.

ACC ACCelerator displayed a greeting for TWC Commissioner Alvarez on monitor featuring a photo of him and a welcome message.
Photo: ACC ACCelerator displayed a greeting for the Texas Two Step Boot Tour team.
Inside view of the large internal area of the Austin Community College ACCelerator Laboratory, which is filled with computer on desks.
Photo: ACC ACCelerator’s vast training and work space.

The final day of the Boot Tour culminated in a listening session with Workforce Solutions Capital Area staff and local stakeholders.

A view of the listening forum with Workforce Solutions Capital area staffers and stakeholders.
Photo: A view of the listening forum with Workforce Solutions Capital area staffers and stakeholders.

Learnings & Takeaways

“Commissioner Alvarez: Having traveled through several regions and multiple cities on tour,  what did you learn? What seemed significant? Were there any major takeaways for you?”

“Those are good questions. TWC went on tour to listen and learn from rural communities. This was an opportunity to allow stakeholders to tell their stories, share their struggles and their successes.  I think what really stood out about the tour for me is how much our services here at TWC have had such an impact on so many lives, communities and the economy.  For example, I knew TWC makes a difference and that TWC-TWS workforce and development training programs and services have the ability to change lives, but it’s different seeing that in person. I knew our grants really trained people but it’s different seeing it up close and personal. That really hit home for me having had the opportunity to tour and witness first-hand a high school with 400 students on the receiving end of a JET grant. It was very powerful.  And the students were equally as enthusiastic about sharing how it has changed their lives.

These students are experiencing the newest and latest welding methods due to one grant with the end result being that industry are hiring many of them right out of high school.  And that’s success, right there.  That’s a significant takeaway. And sometimes the results speak for themselves.

A secondary purpose for the tour was to build strong relationships with rural communities and determine how to work together going forward as a team with workforce development and training services in mind.  On that note, I feel the tour was successful in that we successfully brought Austin to communities that can’t afford to travel to Austin to meet with our agency directly. Many who attended these stakeholder meetings and discussions were employees of non-profits while others ran agencies with limited resources.

Finally, I’m glad to be part of such a great agency and work alongside individuals who truly care about what they do and the people they serve.  Another purpose for the tour was for us to educate on our workforce and training programs, generate new interest from individuals we might not normally hear from, and bring better services. This tour allowed me a second opportunity to to experience how professional and knowledgeable our TWC staff actually are, how passionate they are about their programs and educating others, and how much they want to help others which is the essence of bringing better services.

I’m glad for some actions items and takeaways. And finally, I’m glad to be part of such a great agency.”

 

Each member of the Texas Two Step Boot Tour placed one of their shoes in the form of a circle to symbolize unity.
Photo: Each member of the Texas Two Step Boot Tour placed one of their shoes in the form of a circle to symbolize unity.

Additional Takeaways and Future Action Items: 

  • Takeaway 1 – Target “Skills Gap”: The severity of the skilled trades “skills gap” demonstrates a strong need to continue the development of technical and skilled trades programs at both the high school and college levels to close gaps as soon as possible. Several communities spoke of the sense of urgency to continue building Career Technical Education (CTE) capacity in schools and colleges. TWC should also address how to help colleges work better with one another to build capacity and provide training for each other.
  • Takeaway 2 – More TWC Outreach: Multiple individuals and communities are unfamiliar with TWC programs and there exists a strong need for greater awareness. TWC needs to better educate what TWC programs can offer. This tour demonstrated the fact that certain folks do not know what an Adult Education Literacy program entails, or how Skills Fund works, or who the Vocational Rehabilitation program touches or affects — or how apprenticeship programs can change young lives. (If people were truly surprised to learn that we provide workforce training in addition to basic education and English, TWC realizes there are many other services delivered that individuals are not aware of or familiar with so greater education and more awareness is needed.)
  • Takeaway 3 – Expand VR Awareness: There is a need for greater discussion regarding the partnerships developed with Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation regarding the employment of people with disabilities. This is an ongoing partnership with not only TWC Vocational Rehabilitation staff but also WSA staff in certain regions. Maximizing and leveraging partnerships and information to better serve individuals with disabilities is essential.
  • Takeaway 4 – Share Apprenticeship Best Practices: TWC heard of a greater need for development of innovative partnerships and programs through apprenticeship programs. There is a need for further discussion on shared best practices (as seen across the state) in efforts to create programs that enables individuals to obtain workplace-relevant knowledge and skills.
  • Takeaway 5 – Be Responsive to Local Business Needs:  TWC heard throughout the tour of the need to continuously create responsive programs to meet the needs of business areas visited – there is a realization that each region and city have their successes and their own needs. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. TWC needs to take time to determine local needs.
  • Takeaway 6 – Reduce Confusion Over VR Services: Because of the vast array of services offered by TWC (with each of these individual programs taken on tour), TWC is a full-service program for job seekers and employers.  Certain questions asked to full audiences came from local Work Force Solutions staff wanting to understand the services provided by the boards and how to access them for VR customers.  It demonstrates a need to educate at all levels on the full reach of TWC, boards, and their contractors. More education and awareness for VR programs is also needed. The other TWC programs are provided through grants to boards, schools, training centers etc.  VR services are provided directly to the individual with a disability. There is sometimes confusion over how VR services differentiate from other TWC services.
  • Takeaway 7 – Continue Visits with Local Stakeholders: Having traveled through six regions with TWC’s programs, TWC now has a better understanding that the true worth of the work TWC does and the programs managed that can only be fully appreciated when one is able to see the results and the impact our services our work has on the lives of people and businesses across the state.  TWC program managers must engage in field trips in the future to better understand the impact of the programs TWC manages across the state.
  • Takeaway 8 – Expand Outreach about Skills Development Fund:  Each day of the tour TWC was asked about the Skills Fund Program.  All areas and regions indicated a strong interest in the Skills Development Fund. TWC was able to discuss how it feels it has made a commitment to developing strong relationships at the local level by locating a Regional Staff person in the area. Unfortunately, TWC learned that many businesses and other partners often do not know that this person is there and that the person is a member of the state office team assigned to assist them in benefiting specifically from the programs and services TWC provides.
Director of Employer Initiatives Aaron Demerson proudly displays his “Texas is Wide Open for Business” boots.
Photo: A Boot Tour staff member’s “Texas is Wide Open for Business” boots.

More Photos from the Tour

Click on the image to navigate through the slideshow:

Texas Two Step Boot Tour

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.

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.

 

Transitioning from military service to civilian life

Anyone who can recall the difficult transitions of their youth will surely count among them the passage from elementary school to middle school. So many things are different and the routine is less rigid and familiar, and expectations are different and less defined. This can be particularly challenging if your reading level is a bit behind your peers. But a lucky group of students facing those circumstances at Davila Middle School in Bryan, Texas are benefitting from the mentorship of a Marine veteran who is all too familiar with making this kind of difficult transition under challenging circumstances.

teacher
Melissa LeCounte, a disabled veteran of the Marine Corps, stands in her 6th grade classroom at Arthur L. Davila Middle School in Bryan, Texas. Photo courtesy of Workforce Solutions Brazos Valley.

For Melissa LeCounte, transitioning from military to civilian life was more than just packing up and moving from a military base to a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs; it also meant transitioning from familiar military duties to a new career in the civilian world.

LeCounte and her family moved to Bryan so that her husband could pursue a degree from Texas A&M University. An injury cut short her military career, creating an additional challenge. She had to adapt from the routine of military work and create her own pattern outside of that prescribed regimen.

The routine LeCounte developed was getting up every day and going to her local Workforce Solutions office to look for work. She began her job search by utilizing the many services available through Workforce Solutions Brazos Valley (Brazos Valley) to search for employment. She started the process by registering with Texas Workforce Commission’s (TWC) job-matching system WorkInTexas.com.

LeCounte attended several workshops, job clubs and met with the local Rural Veterans Career Advisor at the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) who showed her how to transfer her military skills to job skills that would be noticed by employers. The Workforce Solutions network offers career assistance with resume building, interview skills and job coaching while connecting veterans with employers.

After securing a full time job, LeCounte enrolled in the Teacher Education Alternative Certification Host (TEACH) program at Blinn College to pursue a career in teaching. While working full time, LeCounte attended classes once a week for one year in preparation of obtaining her teaching certification.

Now, as a sixth grade reading teacher for Davila Middle School, she has found her niche in life working with students that face not only the transition to middle school, but the additional challenge of reading below grade level. LeCounte is elated with her new role as a teacher and uses stories from her military career, and life in general, to synthesize the students in what they are learning each day. After her first year, she was extremely proud that her students pushed beyond their challenges, just as she did, and mastered reading beyond their grade level. She received several educator awards including Rookie Teacher of the Year.

LeCounte’s advice to veterans transitioning from military service to the private sector in Texas, “Get to a Workforce Solutions office and sign up so that you can get the help you need to be successful. They don’t just tell you but will show you how to do it.”

To access information from your local Workforce Solutions webpage, visit TWC’s Workforce Development Board Website page. For information about TWC’s programs and services for veterans, visit the Just for Veterans Web page.

LeCounte’s story is featured in the Solutions Fall 2015 Quarterly Newsletter (access full issue)

Supporting Veterans in the Workplace

Job seekers meet with recruiters at the 2014 Hiring Red, White & You event at the Workforce Solutions Capital Area hiring event in Austin. Photo courtesy: Workforce Solutions Capital Area
Job seekers meet with recruiters at the 2014 Hiring Red, White & You event at the Workforce Solutions Capital Area hiring event in Austin. Photo courtesy: Workforce Solutions Capital Area

In recognition of Veterans Day, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) thanks all veterans for their service and encourages Texas employers to hire our veterans and take advantage of the unique talents, skills and discipline that our nation’s returning soldiers can provide in a variety of industries and occupations.

TWC in partnership with 28 local workforce development boards and the Texas Veterans Commission, will host statewide veterans hiring fairs on Thursday, Nov. 12. TWC’s fourth annual Hiring Red, White & You! Statewide Hiring Fair is a joint initiative supported by the Office of the Governor, the Texas Medical Center and the Texas Veterans Commission to connect veterans and their spouses in Texas with employers who are seeking veterans’ exceptional skills. The multi-city event is designed to assist veterans, service members and their spouses as they seek their next career opportunity.

Over the past three years, Hiring Red, White & You! has connected more than 31,000 veterans with more than 4,700 employers. This year’s event will feature several prominent employers throughout the state, visit the Hiring Red, White & You! Hiring Fair website for a complete list of participating employers.

TWC is committed to working with its partners to help veterans transition to civilian life, by providing priority service at all Workforce Solutions offices, job placement advantages and training through a variety of initiatives and programs just for veterans.

How Texas Partners with Colleges to Provide College Credit for Veterans

IMG_0152 Jimmy Burnett CCFH Intern Grayson CollegeThe Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) recently announced the expansion of College Credit for Heroes project, awarding $800,000 to support five new accelerated accreditation programs, expanding the projects reach with new education partners and better meeting the needs of veteran students.

Launched as a pilot 2011, College Credit for Heroes partners with 37 universities and community colleges throughout Texas that recognize the knowledge and skills gained by military service members and award college credits for their military experience, allowing these veterans to more easily transition into the civilian workforce. College Credit for Heroes was designated as a permanent program with the passage of SB 806 in the 84th Legislative Session.

“We are pleased to announce the new accelerated programs that demonstrate a commitment to launching innovative approaches to better recognize and credit the training and service of our veterans,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “TWC and our partners will continue to replicate and scale programs that ease the transition of our heroes into Texas jobs.”

The additional colleges and universities will further expand the College Credit for Heroes initiative to locations throughout Texas. This new collaboration will increase the number of veterans and service members who can benefit from the accelerated educational programs.

One of the new participants in College Credit for Heroes is Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), which is developing an accelerated Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) degree in which well-qualified veterans can complete program requirements in less than one year through rapid, online based curricula that students can complete at TTUHSC campuses located in Amarillo, Dallas and the Austin area beginning Spring 2016. Plans are to expand to Abilene and Odessa in 2017.

For a full list of participating colleges and academic opportunities available through College Credit for Heroes, visit: www.collegecreditforheroes.org.

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