The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and Workforce Solutions of Central Texas honored 31 area employers for their commitment to hiring veterans during a recent “We Hire Vets” recognition ceremony.
The event was held at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas Killeen on May 25.
Launched in 2017, “We Hire Vets” is an employer recognition program developed by TWC in partnership with the Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Workforce Solutions Offices, to recognize Texas employers for their efforts in hiring our nation’s heroes. Employers whose workforce is comprised of at least 10 percent military veterans are eligible to receive a “We Hire Vets” employer recognition decal to display on their storefront, as well as an electronic decal to display on the employer’s website.
Among the many employers recognized at the event was McLane Southwest, one of the largest supply chain services leaders in the country, maintaining one of the nation’s most expansive private fleets.
“At McLane Southwest, we feel it is a value to pursue and hire our veterans of this great country. In fact, 14.7 percent of McLane Southwest’s workforce is comprised of veterans,” said Gary Johnson, McLane Southwest Division President of Grocery Supply Chain Solutions. “These individuals come from a previous background where a culture of accomplishment and teamwork are second nature. Many of them possess some form of leadership training and capability, and they take their assigned responsibilities very seriously. Our veterans are not afraid of hard work, and given the right opportunity and support, they become some of the most valuable assets to our organization.”
McLane’s commitment to veterans led the company to launch a Registered Driver Apprenticeship program featuring a veteran initiative, Warriors to Wheels.
The Warriors to Wheels program is designed to attract and provide military veterans an “earn while you learn” training model that utilizes their military training experience to move into a career in transportation. McLane offers careers that don’t require drivers to be away from their families for extended periods of time. Delivery drivers run 1-2-day routes, with over 80 distribution centers nationwide.
“McLane values military veterans and the work ethic and skills they bring to the table. Because of this, McLane decided to provide an opportunity for veterans to utilize their military training and start a new career in transportation, with the goal of becoming part of the McLane family. This program enables eligible veterans to take full advantage of their GI Bill benefits while training to become a McLane Driver. For more information and a list of participating locations, please go to www.mclanew2w.com,” said Jennifer Rojas Clause, Inclusion and EEO Compliance Manager at McLane.
Another Central Texas employer who was recognized for their commitment to hiring veterans is Seton Medical Center Harker Heights (SMCHH), whose workforce is comprised of at least 12 percent military veterans.
SMCHH offers an array of health services for the Central Texas community, such as a Cardiology, Emergency Services and a Level IV Trauma Designated Emergency Room.
“At Seton Medical Center Harker Heights we are honored to be recognized by ‘We Hire Vets.’ We understand the advantages that come with hiring veterans and the invaluable experience they bring to our organization. We will continue to make it a priority to hire veterans and are fortunate to be part of the larger Fort Hood community,” said SMCHH CEO Zachary K. Dietze.
For maintaining a workforce of about 25 percent veterans, the Workforce Solutions of Central Texas Board and Workforce Center were also recognized at the Killeen event by TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs.
Employing veterans creates a dedicated workforce with employees who know how to lead, build teams, and accept and meet challenges. Recognition of employers with veteran-friendly hiring practices is an important aspect of the Texas Operation Welcome Home (TOWH) initiative that assists recently separated veterans with employment and training opportunities.
As Gov. Greg Abbott shared when the “We Hire Vets” program was launched, “It is important to recognize current employers utilizing our highly-skilled veteran workforce, and encourage future employers to consider veterans in their hiring process. While we can never say ‘thank you’ enough, the ‘We Hire Vets’ program will create well-deserved opportunities to get our veterans back into the workforce.”
John McKinny, an Army veteran and former American Legion State Commander, presented the Stetsons directly to soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion along with the unit’s commanders.
McKinny said the Stetsons were donated to the Battalion by the American Legion Travis Post 76 Honor Guard, as a way to give back to our service men and women.
“It’s refreshing to see the dedication of these soldiers. I’m excited about this new generation of veterans,” he said.
McKinny entered the U. S. Army in 1969 and served two years, one of which was in Vietnam. He was honorably discharged as a Specialist (E-5). After returning from military service, he was hired by the Texas Workforce Commission (then known as the Texas Employment Commission) as a Veterans Placement Specialist, before being promoted to Interviewer, Site Manager, and then serving as the local office Veterans Employment Representative for the Port Arthur Texas Employment Office. He went on to serve as the State Director of the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) until his retirement.
McKinny said when he got out of the service, the American Legion was there for him, to help during his transition back to the civilian world.
“I had nothing when I got back, but with their help I was soon serving as a local veterans representative in Port Arthur, and was able to help fellow-veterans find work — more than 800 within one single month,” he said.
McKinny said while he knows the Army of today is very different that the one he served in, he said ceremonies like this help connect veterans through a strong esprit de corps.
“I have faith in our future. Today’s generation is tomorrow’s future,” he said.
The tradition of the Cavalry Hat (Stetson) began in the early days before the Vietnam War, and has continued to become the standard for all cavalry units in the Army.
The “Cav Hat” is not an issued item for soldiers, and is not covered in any of the uniform regulations. But the Stetsons are worn by the Troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division and many other cavalry units, for ceremonies and special cavalry events, according to the Division.
Hat cords are worn and represent the rank of the wearer. General officers wear solid gold cords, field and company grade officers wear black and gold hat cords, warrant officers wear black and silver hat cords and enlisted Troopers wear Cavalry yellow hat cords. Normally the branch insignia of the Cavalry, crossed sabers, are worn on the front along with the rank of the wearer.
During the ceremony at Fort Hood, the unit’s senior non-commissioned officer (NCO), 1st Sgt. Dailey, called his Troopers to formation and asked them to consider their lives after their time in the Army, and to seek out TWC services and to learn from the example that McKinny and many other veterans in public service have set.
“You never stop serving,” said Dailey to his troops. “If you plan to take advantage of the GI Bill to go to college, you have American Legion members like Mr. McKinny to thank for that. They introduced it in 1944. Veterans serving veterans.”
After the Stetsons were handed out by McKinny to selected members of the unit, he told the troops about the last time he stood in formation as a solider, in Vietnam.
“As we stood together, the enemy started shelling our position, and dropping ordinance right on top of us. That was the last time I stood within a formation like this. I hope you leave the service with good memories of serving together, and of participating in ceremonies like this,” he said.
In appreciation for his many years of service to veterans, Dailey and his Troopers presented McKinny with a military pin bearing the unit’s insignia.
“Wow! Just, wow. Thank you all,” said McKinny with gratitude to the soldiers.
Following the ceremony, the soldiers who received the Stetsons thanked McKinny personally, and posed for photos with him. Many of them said they were honored by the gift.
“They didn’t have to do any of this,” said one soldier. “But to know that they went out of their way to make us feel special, and to honor the traditions of the 1st Cav, that’s special.
“These Stetsons were handed down to us with pride. There’s a lot of honor in that,” said another soldier.
“Veterans service organizations, such as the American Legion, are critical to keeping the focus on veterans issues,” said TVLP Program Manager Jeff Singh. “This ceremony at Fort Hood was a wonderful opportunity to bring these organizations together to keep that bridge open — for relationship building, to preserve military heritage and for the continuing of service traditions into civilian life.”
TVLP is a program under TWC’s Texas Operation Welcome Home (TOWH), and assists veterans and transitioning service members as they resume civilian life in Texas. This program provides critical resource and referral services to assist these veterans in connecting with necessary employment and training services, as well as locating existing resources that can provide other ancillary services. Modeled after the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, TVLP is overseen by a state director, and 22 local Veterans Resource and Referral Specialists (VRRS).
For more information on military transition, skills training and career resources available just for veterans in Texas, visit TexasOperationWelcomeHome.com.
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.
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.”
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!”
To 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.
“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.”
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.
Why Did We Go?
Listen and learn from rural communities. Allow stakeholders to tell their stories, share their struggles and their successes.
Build strong relationships with rural communities and determine how to work together as a team with workforce development and training services in mind.
Educate on our workforce and training program staff, generate new interest from individuals we might not normally hear from, and bring better services.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
“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
The Boot Tour team visited Workforce Solutions Alamo on day four and hosted a listening session and invitation for questions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The final day of the Boot Tour culminated in a listening session with Workforce Solutions Capital Area staff and local 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.”
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.
More Photos from the Tour
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The 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
Qualified Long-Term Unemployment Recipient added to those eligible for Work Opportunity Tax Credit
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:
Residents of empowerment zones or rural renewal counties
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The 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.