College Credit for Heroes Supports Four New Programs for Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New 2017 programs that received funding through College Credit for Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Tips for Making the Most of Your Internship

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

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

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

Did you know? Emotional support animals one of top housing discrimination complaints

ThinkstockPhotos-98955994.jpgIn 2016, disability was the number one basis for housing discrimination complaints filed in Texas. Housing consumers have a right to ask providers to change certain housing policies, procedures and rules relating to their disability status. This is known as a request for a reasonable accommodation.

Having an emotional support animal is one of the most popular reasonable accommodation requests. Recently, a graduate student at Houston Baptist University requested to have his emotional support animal with him in his on-campus apartment and on campus to help him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

The student submitted paperwork from his therapist to support the request. Two days later the request was denied.  After the denial, the student was charged with pet deposit fees. Emotional support animals are not pets. They provide individuals with the emotional support to help them cope. Pet fees cannot be charged for emotional support animals .

When making a decision to grant permission for an emotional support animal, housing providers should consider the following questions:

  • Does the tenant have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
  • Does the tenant making the request have a disability-related need for an emotional support animal?
  • Is there evidence the specific animal has caused a direct threat of harm to someone or substantial physical damage to someone’s property that could not be reduced or eliminated by another accommodation?

Just in time for graduation, college officials agreed to pay back the pet fees the student paid out of fear of not graduating and to have staff take part in a Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division reasonable accommodation webinar.

For more information about fair housing rights and responsibilities and fair housing training, go to the webpage of the Civil Rights Division at www.texasworkforce.org/civilrights.

Stories of Success: Skills for Small Business

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

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

Davidson Oil Company – Amarillo, TX

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

Diamond Enterprises – Ranger, TX

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

Solar CenTex – Killeen, TX

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

Through the Skills for Small Business grant program, eligible small businesses can receive up to $1,800 in training for each new worker and $900 for each existing worker for classes offered at their local community and technical college.

Employers seeking more information about the Skills for Small Business program, including applications and information about how to apply, may visit the TWC website at www.texasworkforce.org/ssb.

Tips for Employers Interviewing People with Disabilities

By Michelle Colvard

People with disabilities, like me, live full lives. In a typical day, I don’t give any more thought to the fact that I use a wheelchair than someone who wears glasses gives thought to their eyesight.

I am a research compliance officer in the healthcare industry, I have spina bifida, and I use a wheelchair every day. I have been hired as a person with a disability and, as a manager; I have hired individuals who have disabilities. Some people may associate having a disability with weakness or with inability. But I represent the opposite view: having a disability fosters resilience, problem solving and critical thinking. These skills serve anyone well, particularly in the workforce.

Throughout my life, I learned how to dance (in my wheelchair), drive cars, race cars as a hobby, earn a master’s degree while working full time, and, now, raise a child. We do the things we care about because we’ve adapted to the world and helped the world adapt to us. Part of this adaption occurs in the workplace. So, as a manager, here are a few tips for other hiring managers to keep in mind during the hiring process of individuals who happen to have a disability:

  • Focus on Abilities, not Disabilities – Individuals with disabilities have education, skills, and professional experiences to offer employers. Don’t assume a person is incapable of doing a job just because they have a disability. During the interview, ask how the candidate will use his or her abilities to be successful in the role.
  • Focus on Job Description and Skill Set – Employees with disabilities want to be treated like all other employees: with consistency. Don’t lower your expectations for candidates with disabilities. Be fair when interviewing all candidates; focus questions to understand how candidates’ skill sets align with job descriptions.
  • Use People First Language – People with disabilities are people first, with the disability being just one part of who we are. Don’t talk to or about us in a manner that places our disability first. Utilize best practices defined by the concept “People-First Language” and say “a woman who uses a wheelchair” instead of “a wheel-chair bound woman.”

Remember that job candidates with disabilities likely have a pretty good idea of how they can be successful in the positions for which they are applying. Just like you would any candidate, give them a fair chance to explain.

Texas Workforce Commission is partnering with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and the Texas Workforce Solutions network for a campaign called Texas HireAbility to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

Top 10 Tips for Internship Interviews

16831117_1328324190558558_3227410700319167262_n.jpgInternships prepare you for the real world workforce. The work experience gained in an internship enables you to transition into a career. But, in order to gain that experience, you must first be interviewed and hired as an intern.

To begin preparing for an interview, below are ten tips.

1. Prepare – Research the organization. Visit their website, read and understand their mission statement. Find out as much as you can about the company, employees, structure and clients. There is nothing that impresses an interviewer more than a candidate that shows a real interest in the organization and its goals

2. Practice – Think about why this internship opportunity is one you want and one you would be good at. You will be asked questions around your interests, skills and suitability as they relate to the internship position. Spend time before the interview preparing answers to typically asked questions. In addition, you will be asked questions that explore the behaviors or competencies required in an internship. Preparing for these types of questions beforehand will allow you to answer fluently and positively.

3. Customize – Be sure to customize your resume for each interview opportunity. Tailor your skills and experience to what is required for the job you are applying for.

4. Dress Professionally – First impressions are always important. It is always better to overdress than underdress. Dress for the job you are applying for.

5. Arrive Early – Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early for your interview. This gives you enough time to find parking, check in and prepare yourself and relax.

6. Make a good impression – It is important to create a favorable first impression from the word go. Greeting the doorman, receptionist and everyone else you meet politely. Remember to turn your cell phone off and avoid using gadgets like your tablet while waiting. Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and ensure your body language is positive throughout the process. Examples of positive body language include smiling, eye contact, solid posture, active listening and nodding and speaking clearly.

7. The Elevator Speech – In case you don’t know what this is, an elevator speech is prepared in case you suddenly find yourself in a situation, for example, in an elevator with the president of the company – where you need to pitch yourself within a few short moments. Prepare your elevator speech beforehand, which should detail who you are, what your goals are and why you are a great candidate for the internship.

8. Include the right documents – Bring extra copies of your resume, cover letter and references with you to the interview. If you have a relevant work sample bring it along with you. An assignment, presentation, award, writing example, portfolio, term paper or research project that may be relevant to the internship opportunity.

9. Ask Questions – Before your interview think about some relevant questions you can ask the interviewer. Preparing these ahead of time shows the interviewer that you have spent time thinking about the internship opportunity. Questions to ask might include: How do you anticipate my skills can support your organization? What types of new skills will I be able to learn? What will a typical day be like?

10.  – Thank each person who interviewed you before you leave. Writing thank you emails shortly after the interview will give you an edge over other candidates who did not.

The Texas Internship Challenge is a campaign to increase and promote paid internships for Texas students with Texas employers. Go to www.TXInternshipChallenge.com to create and post resumes, conduct internship searches, and apply for positions.

Housing Providers: Know Your Fair Housing Responsibilities

The Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division (CRD) works to stop housing discrimination in the state by educating the public and by enforcing fair housing laws.

CRD recently released several informational videos to help housing landlords, lenders and other housing providers understand what housing discrimination is, what to expect if you are the subject of a fair housing complaint, and the mediation process. The Fair Housing Act says housing providers cannot treat housing consumers differently because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. To learn more about what housing discrimination is and what to expect if a complaint is filed against you, please watch the video below.

The best way to promptly resolve a housing discrimination complaint is through mediation. If the parties cannot agree to mutual terms to settle the complaint, the complaint will be investigated by TWC. To learn more about CRD’s mediation process, please watch the video below.

In collaboration with Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, CRD will present several free fair housing webinar training series as part of National Fair Housing Month in April. For more information on fair housing, go to the CRD page on the Texas Workforce Commission website.

People With and Without Disabilities Participate in Meaningful Employment Side-By-Side

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People with disabilities represent the single largest and diverse minority in the country and are a major untapped resource pool of qualified employees. For those with developmental disabilities, only 25% are employed, yet roughly half of unemployed Texans with developmental disabilities say they want to work.

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and the Texas Workforce Commission is proud to partner with the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities to promote Side-By-Side Texas, a social media campaign that is designed to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion of people of all abilities.

By focusing on inclusion in the workplace, people with disabilities can be empowered to bring their ideas and innovation forward from a unique perspective. Managers and executives who employ people with disabilities report high productivity, positive job performance, and low attrition rates.

If your company or organization employs individuals with disabilities, consider participating in Side-By-Side Texas. Businesses that employ people with disabilities can help raise awareness about inclusion by encouraging their employees to participate.

It’s easy to get involved in Side-By-Side Texas – just follow these three simple steps:

  1. Use your phone or camera to take a photo or short video of your employees working together or helping a customer, side-by-side.
  2. Add the photo or video to your favorite social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
  3. Include the hashtag #SideBySideTX and post your photo or video.

In October 2016, the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Texas Workforce Solutions board partners collaborated to launch the Texas HireAbility campaign. The campaign’s goals are to raise awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and connect Texas employers with job seekers with disabilities.

All over Texas, people with and without disabilities participate in meaningful employment, make contributions to their communities, and have fun together — side-by-side.

Getting On the Job Training through the Texas Internship Challenge

P1070682.JPGWith summer quickly approaching, many students are seeking internships as a way to gain effective job experience before applying for a full time job after graduation.

Many of our state’s largest companies already recognize the value of having an internship program. Internships meet the needs of both the student intern and the employer by establishing a rewarding opportunity for interns to learn job skills in a real-world setting. Employers gain potential full-time employees that can be recruited directly from qualified interns, as well as exposure for their company and their industry’s in-demand occupations.

To highlight the need to increase these opportunities for high school and college students, and to encourage large and small employers to offer internships, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) joined forces to establish the Texas Internship Challenge, a statewide campaign to increase and promote paid internships for students in Texas.

This week, commissioners were joined by executives from Lockheed Martin, Accenture, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Texas and Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance, among other industry and education leaders to unveil www.TXInternshipChallenge.com, a website where employers can post positions and students can apply for them.

The agencies encourage internship programs as a bridge for students to explore in-demand industries and occupations. Students will benefit from mentoring, career guidance, identification of marketable skills, and learn firsthand about high-demand occupations. Employers will benefit by leveraging the developing skill sets and perspectives of students, highlighting careers in their industries to a future workforce and exploring candidates for full-time recruitment.

Learn more about upcoming internship opportunities or how to post an internship to the Texas Internship Challenge website by visiting TXInternshipChallenge.com.