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.”
Work experience equips you with certain soft skills such as effective communication, time management, and problem solving, all of which are sought after by employers.
Last year Colton Head learned these soft skills while working at H-E-B in Austin. This year, Colton and other students in Texas will receive paychecks again by participating in Summer Earn and Learn, a program that provides students with disabilities, aged 14-22, with work-readiness training and paid work experience. The program is a partnership between TWC, Texas Workforce Solutions Offices and Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS).
Colton started gaining work experience in the 2017 Summer Earn and Learn program through Workforce Solutions Capital Area. While working at H-E-B, Colton provided customer service, stocked groceries and retrieved carts from the parking lot. Colton said the positive experience he gained motivated him to participate in the 2018 program.
“H-E-B was my first job, and when I started working, I was nervous. But after a few days, I quickly learned how to complete my job duties,” said Colton. “It was a great experience to learn about working and receiving a paycheck.”
Later this month, Colton will know more about his 2018 employment placement. He hopes the job will relate to his career interest of photography. He recently completed photography and digital imaging classes at Austin Community College. To hone his skills, he’s been volunteering to take photos for family and friends.
“I’m trying to get into the habit of taking my camera with me wherever I go, because my mom constantly stresses the importance of always being ready for your career goals,” said Colton.
Though he knows his summer will be busy with work and photography, Colton is confident he will be successful and cites the support of his mom and TWS-VRS counselors as motivators.
“I just really appreciate people who take the time to help you, to make you feel comfortable,” he said.
Last year, more than 1,500 students participated in Summer Earn and Learn and worked in positions as assistant graphic designers, customer service representatives, peer counselors and others. Small and large businesses who participated in the program include Alamo College in San Antonio, the Clements Boys & Girls Club in Killeen and CVS, H-E-B, and Verizon locations throughout the state.
Workforce Solutions Offices are actively reaching out to students, parents and employers to spread the word about the 2018 Summer Earn and Learn program and encourage participation. Informational efforts include:
Workforce Solutions Borderplex — Newspaper ads, television and media announcements; informational brochures for students and employers; social media blasts
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.
In May, the Texas economy marked 23 consecutive months of employment growth, adding 34,700 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs . Over the year, Texas added 352,100 jobs for an annual employment growth rate of 2.9 percent. Private-sector employers added 34,300 positions over the month. Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in May, unchanged from April 2018.
“Texas employers continue to put the world class Texas workforce to work, adding 34,700 jobs in May and 352,100 over the year,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. TWC continues to work with our local and Tri-Agency partners to foster innovative strategies to equip the Texas talent pool with industry aligned skills. Job creation is strong in Texas.”
May’s annual growth in the state’s Goods Producing industries was strong at 5.7 percent. Over the month, the Construction industry added 5,800 jobs, followed by Mining and Logging with 4,100 positions, while Manufacturing employment expanded by 3,400 positions.
In Texas’ Service Providing sector, Education and Health Services added 8,100 positions over the month, and led all industries in job growth for May. Also within this sector, Professional and Business Services added 4,300 jobs, followed by Leisure and Hospitality with a gain of 3,500 positions.
“Employers continue to contribute to our state’s great success. Private-sector employers have accounted for the addition of 346,300 positions in Texas over the past year as the state has continued to expand its workforce,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employer Ruth R. Hughs. “As employment continues to grow, I invite Texas employers whose workforce is comprised of at least 10 percent Texas veterans to apply for our We Hire Vets recognition program. We want to thank businesses for their commitment to hiring our nation’s heroes and strengthening the Texas economy.”
Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.1 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA, which had the second lowest with a rate of 2.6 percent. The Austin-Round Rock, College Station-Bryan, Lubbock, and Odessa MSAs all recorded the third lowest rate of 2.8 percent for May.
“Several Goods Producing industries are showing strength in Texas, including Construction,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “I encourage our labor force to connect with TWC’s apprenticeship training program that can help prepare them for a well-paying career. One of the best ways that adults learn skills is in applied studies.”
View the Texas Labor Market highlights from Commissioner Julian Alvarez:
Asking the right questions isn’t just for journalists and writers. Questions are also how we grow. They help us pass our experiences from one person to the next.
“I’m a firm believer that the only difference between me and my customer is my desk,” says Willie Taylor, CEO for Workforce Solutions Permian Basin, known to invite job seekers into his office and whose staff provide work search and related services to people in 17 counties, 15 of which are rural. “It could be me looking for a job, it could be me without transportation, or I could be needing day care to go to work,” Taylor says.
Meanwhile, it’s likely more than a desk that makes the lifelong Odessa resident different from others. In the office by 6 a.m. each morning, Taylor has led the Workforce Board since its certification in 1996. Taylor’s been “in the system” for 46 years, he says, working to bring services to his community since the 1970s, and has learned what is effective for successful workforce development: partnerships and stability.
What is the most important thing you feel you do that contributes to the success of your local Workforce Development Board?
It’s all about building partnerships, especially with local colleges and universities, economic development councils, the chamber. Once you develop those partnerships, it’s easier to get things done in the community: for example, retooling your colleges to provide training in automotive, diesel or trade. We have our targeted occupations list, which we take into the public-school system and work with (guidance) counselors to help students make informed career choices.
Can you tell me something your Board is doing to prepare for current and future workforce demands?
Our board is focused on growing our own workforce, since we have challenges bringing people here. We’re blessed to have three community colleges: Odessa, Midland and Howard College, Texas Tech for medicine, UT Permian Basin for engineering. The cost of living is high, but if workers have a place to live and family here, or they’re going to school here, we can develop our existing workforce rather than relocate workers here.
We’ve been hit hard with a lack of truck drivers, due to the demands of the oil and gas industry. We’re applying for a high demand occupation grant partnering TWC with Midland Development Corporation to train 75-90 more truck drivers in a four-month program that’s got a 90% passing rate.
How did you end up in a career in workforce development?
Even when I was in college, I loved working with people and helping them. After college, I worked in the oil and gas industry, exploration and production, for 2-3 years, then for the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission. In the mid-1970s I took a summer youth counseling job under the Manpower Development Training Act, and I became the executive director at the planning commission.
What do you do outside of the office?
I love playing golf, and I have an automotive repair shop, where I love working on Chevys and Fords. I [also] volunteer. I’m president of the Medical Center Hospital Family Clinics, which serves about 4,000 people who come to see medical doctors for treatment.
Would you like to share a success story?
In workforce development you touch a lot of lives, and you don’t know how much you impact them until you see them making a living for their families.
In Seminole, Texas, we had a rancher going through a difficult time. I worked with him with our dislocated worker program, which helped farmers and ranchers. I was working with him — and when you think of a farmer you think independent. I got him into training at Midland College’s air conditioning training and started his own business. He’s doing very well now, in business more than 20 years.
Makiko, a black six-year-old Labrador retriever, is no ordinary pet. According to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Makiko falls under the description of a service animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. It is because of Makiko that Jessica Naert can fulfill her work activities as a Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Denton.
The ADA and Texas law guarantee the right of people who have disabilities to be accompanied by a trained service animal in all public places. In addition, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees who need to use service animals. This workplace requirement allows Makiko to work alongside Naert, which she appreciates.
“Makiko is my first guide and she has changed my life in so many ways,” says Naert. “Makiko is literally the best guide dog I could ever imagine, and she has been such an easy partner when learning and adapting to the guide-dog lifestyle.”
Though Naert first experienced vision loss when she was in the second grade, she was officially diagnosed in the eighth grade. Her vision worsened through college, and in 2012 she was declared legally blind. She then applied to the Guide Dogs for the Blind school and attended training in Boring, Oregon. She graduated with Makiko in 2013.
“As a counselor, I travel multiple times per week to various campuses and meet with high school students with disabilities to help them transition into the workforce. I offer skills training courses and other individualized services, based on the customer’s need,” said Naert. “Makiko brilliantly remembers where we go in each of the schools and allows me to be confident without letting my vision loss affect that.”
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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Once a volunteer and now the newly appointed Executive Director for FIRST in Texas, Patrick Felty has seen FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the K-12 hands-on robotics program grow so fast, only a programmed algorithm could have predicted it.
“The opportunity to continue to help grow FIRST programs in Texas and work with our great FIRST leadership across the state is what drew me to work for FIRST in Texas,” said Felty. His background in management, operations, and sales help support his passion for giving back to his community. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Patrick served as the Development Director for FIRST in Texas and the Regional Director for South Texas (Alamo Region). “My approach to the role as the Alamo Regional Director was to focus on the overall growth of robotics teams, events, and expand on the four programs in the region,” he said. “As the Executive Director of FIRST in Texas, our goals are much the same, to provide a life-changing experience for our participants and establish a foundation of support for FIRST programs for the next generation of innovators.”
Founded in 2010, FIRST in Texas 501(c)(3) is the Texas-based partner of FIRST, the worldwide nonprofit organization. Its vision is that every Texas student has an opportunity to participate in one of the four K-12 programs available through FIRST.
Since the Texas Workforce Commission partnered with FIRST in Texas, it has provided funding to support thousands of aspiring students to be future leaders by engaging them in exciting, mentor-based programs that promote innovation, build interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, and foster well-rounded work/life skills. “When FIRST in Texas started our relationship with TWC, Texas only had a few hundred teams across the entire state with only a few thousand students involved. This year we are proud to say that with the support of partners like TWC, we now have more than 2,900 teams in Texas and which impacts 28,000-plus students,” said Felty.
For its part, TWC supports youth education programs that prepare students for high-demand careers in the workforce through its partnership with after-school STEM programs, like FIRST in Texas.
An example of a collaborative education and workforce partnership is the relationship between FIRST in Texas and the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX) facility in San Antonio. FIRST teams are developed and supported in the schools surrounding the facility, which results in FIRST students from those schools making up a large percentage of the TMMTX Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program’s classes each year since its inception.
“As the students progress through the AMT program, they are often offered employment positions at Toyota,” Felty said. “Many of those employees have now become mentors for FIRST teams and are continuing to help grow the local economy.”
It is clear these valuable relationships are key to the future success of Texas youth. FIRST in Texas and TWC provide valuable tools that enable youth to participate in STEM programs, which cultivates a more technologically advanced workforce and contributes to the state’s growth.
“The state of Texas is in a position of economic growth through technology and innovation, but we need programs like FIRST to help inspire our students to become the knowledge workers of the future to keep the momentum of economic growth moving forward for future generations,” Felty said.
According to FIRST, a 10-year evaluation demonstrated that students who participate in FIRST are:
2X more likely to major in science/engineering in college,
Up to 91% are more interested in going to college, and
At least a third of female students major in engineering.
As further proof that support for hands-on learning activities in robotics continues to grow, the University Interscholastic League’s (UIL) has officially sanctioned competitive robotics as an academic sport in public schools across the state.
The grant provided by the TWC continues to serve as an opportunity to help develop new high school aged teams in the State of Texas. “The greatest need is support for teams coming from under-served or financially limited communities or teams who reside in communities where FIRST programs are not as well established,” Felty said.
Through the partnership with FIRST in Texas, TWC is able to provide opportunities for all youth to learn STEM and soft skills through their participation on robotics teams while gaining valuable hands-on experience in a competitive environment at statewide competitions.
The Texas economy added 39,600 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in April, which marked 22 consecutive months of employment growth. In addition, Texas added 332,300 jobs for an annual employment growth rate of 2.7 percent in April.
“Texas employers continue to boost the impressive Texas economy by adding 39,600 jobs in April and 332,300 jobs over the year,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “Our state’s ongoing trajectory of success is linked to the innovation and competitiveness of employers in a range of industries providing workers more opportunities to demonstrate their world-class skills.”
Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in April, up slightly from 4.0 percent in March.
“Texas employers added 327,500 jobs over the past year, making our state’s annual private-sector employment growth 3.2 percent for April, up from 2.9 percent in March,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “It’s no surprise that CEOs ranked the Lone Star State as the Best State for Business for the 14th consecutive year in a row. These numbers are a testament to the perseverance and resilience of our Texas employers and the diversity of our Texas economy.”
The Manufacturing Industry recorded the largest private-industry employment gain over the month with 8,600 jobs added. Professional and Business Services employment grew by 7,500 jobs in April, followed by Education and Health Services with 6,200 jobs.
View the Texas Labor Market highlights from Commissioner Ruth R. Hughs:
“The Texas labor force is now approaching 14 million and has continued to provide employers with the skills and expertise needed to keep the Texas economy growing,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “TWC and the 28 local workforce development boards are committed to connecting Texas workers with available jobs.”
Employment estimates released by TWC are produced in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. All estimates are subject to revision. To access this and more employment data, visit tracer2.com.