A Growing Commitment to Quality Care at St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center

15 Mar
St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center

St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center staff

Each year, Workforce Solutions Capital Area hosts the Child Care Directors Symposium, an educational event for child care providers in Austin and Travis County to connect and share ideas. This annual training event is one of our largest offerings, and the symposium is now in its 17th year.

In 2019, one of the attendees was St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center. This was the fifth year the center’s leadership attended, said Co-Director Margaret English-Knipp.

“We are an early childhood center with our Catholic church, and we have been in Austin for about 40 years,” said Margaret. “We have five classrooms. We teach children ages zero to four years, and we have 70 children enrolled.”

For the past five years, St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center has engaged with Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s Child Care Services team. We love working with them. We go to their trainings and take advantage of having trainers come out to us,” said Margaret.

The Child Care Directors Symposium is one of the many quality-related activities the school engages in with Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Margaret said. Another key identifier of St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center’s dedication to the delivery of quality care is their participation in the Texas Rising Star (TRS) program. The school is currently a 2-star rated program (out of 4 stars).

“We are working on the process of becoming a 4-star with a mentor from Workforce Solutions Capital Area,” Margaret said. “I like their philosophy and the way they treat the staff at our center.”

St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center has participated in the TRS program for seven years. Why is participation important? “Because of the quality of trainings our staff gets,” Margaret said. “Also, we are a Catholic-based early childhood center, so we treat this as a ministry, as well. We like to offer quality childcare to people who might not otherwise afford it. So, people who are clients of Workforce Solutions Capital Area can be served here.”

In her role as a co-director, Margaret finds value in attending the symposium: “It’s good to be around people that are in your position and brainstorm ideas together. I feel like Workforce Solutions Capital Area understands early childhood educators and they take care of us.”

Margaret added, “We really liked the keynote speaker. She gave us her book, and we liked it so much, we will do a book study with our staff on it.”

With the symposium concluded, Margaret is incorporating what she learned into her day-to-day work.

“For me, it’s taking more ownership of what I do, and the symposium gave me tools for handling different situations with our staff. It gave me some really good ideas, like having the book study,” she said. “My co-director took a class on TRS and earning higher rating levels, and she has ideas on that.”

About the Texas Rising Star program
The Texas Rising Star program is for child care providers who meet quality requirements that exceed the state’s minimum licensing standards and that are designed to enhance the intellectual, physical, and social development of children in care. In return for their commitment to quality, providers receive numerous benefits including enhanced reimbursement rates, learning materials and equipment, child development college course scholarships, and more.

 

Learn more about the Texas Rising Star program here.

Employees Do Great Work, and Employers are Recognizing Them on National Employee Appreciation Day

1 Mar

Group Of People Show Ok Or Approval With Thumb Up During Confere
There are many ways for organizations to build and strengthen their internal cultures, and today we’re focusing on appreciation. That’s because the first Friday in March is National Employee Appreciation Day.

Beginning in 1995, employers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have observed National Employee Appreciation Day by thanking their workforce for their dedication and contributions. Since then, studies have shown that recognition and appreciation are growing in importance for workers’ happiness and engagement. In 2015, a white paper from the Cicero Group entitled Employee Performance: What Causes Great Work? (PDF) concluded that excellent recognition drives employees to do great work. Additionally, effective employee recognition may be the leading reason that employees perform at their highest level, according to the study.

Findings like these are inspiring many organizations to show their appreciation today in a variety of ways, including special lunches, team outings, small gifts, or time off. Employees do special work, so it’s fitting for employers to share recognition on a special day like National Employee Appreciation Day.

How is your organization celebrating National Employee Appreciation Day? Tell us in a comment below!

The Child Care Directors Symposium Inspires and Informs Providers

14 Feb

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Workforce Solutions Capital Area provides subsidized childcare assistance to eligible low- to moderate-income families in Travis County while parents can find work or complete training to support their families. Our services related to child care are not just for Austin’s parents, however, but child care providers as well. One of our largest offerings is an annual training event called the Child Care Directors Symposium, now in its 17th year.

This year’s Directors Symposium is February 22 – 23 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Austin. We partnered with Kaplan Early Learning Company and Lakeshore Learning Company to host this valuable educational event for providers of high-quality early childhood education in Austin/Travis County.

The two-day Directors Symposium features keynote speakers and many working sessions for the directors of child care providers to earn training hours around specific areas for licensing, leadership and advocacy that meet state and Texas Rising Star requirements. Hundreds of directors from the Austin metro region and neighboring communities attend each year.

Each symposium has a theme, and 2019’s is Breaking Barriers: Changing the Climate Within Your Program. With this theme, we hope to motivate participants to strengthen their centers’ programs for the benefit of staff and children alike.

Why offer an event like this? The Austin community benefits when we inform and inspire child care staff and administrators to provide high-quality care to local families. Nurturing the next generation of Austin’s workforce is just one of the many ways Workforce Solutions Capital Area strives to enhance the economic competitiveness of our region.

Brianna Guerrero Never Gives Up on a Goal

12 Feb

For young residents of Austin/Travis County, resources for professional growth are available from Workforce Solutions Capital Area and Goodwill Central Texas through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Program, such as job skills training and employment opportunities.

Brianna Guerrero is an Austin youth who has benefited from participating in the program. She first learned about the assistance available from Goodwill Central Texas at a job fair at her high school. Brianna became a parent when she entered high school, and with caring for her baby boy in front of mind, she enrolled in the WIOA Youth Program after graduating.

Brianna chose phlebotomy technician for her career path. “I decided to take the program to continue my education in a professional setting and learn professional skills,” she said.

Goodwill Central Texas offers a variety of job-readiness training, such as Career Advancement Training (CAT). CAT includes a five-day, immersive boot camp, utilizing hands-on activities that are designed to prepare job seekers to find and retain employment. CAT offers financial literacy training, resume and mock interview training, and more.

Brianna Guerrero and family.

Brianna Guerrero and family.

“My experience was awesome. They really push you to succeed and work hard, and help you build confidence,” said Brianna.

“Brianna very much wanted to complete a training, and while caring for a special needs child who requires specialized care. Brianna never complained or spoke a negative word about her responsibilities,” said Linda Kaufmann, a Career Case Manager at Goodwill Central Texas.

Brianna completed her training through the Goodwill Career & Technical Academy in June 2018, and next secured an internship at TruCare, a pregnancy care center.

“My internship was awesome! I met new friendly faces every day and being there knowing I was helping created a good atmosphere to work in,” Brianna said.

While interning at the clinic, one of her biggest challenges was caring for frustrated patients when she didn’t immediately find a vein to draw blood. However, staying calm in a stressful situation taught Brianna valuable problem solving and people skills. “Even the professionals may miss, so I kept in mind that practice makes perfect,” Brianna said.

She added, “Also, juggling school and work while going home and running errands was difficult, but dedication was key.”

“This speaks to Brianna’s character which is always positive, respectful, grateful and someone who never complains. Brianna knew she had to focus on her son’s needs first, and although she wanted to commit to occupational training, she had to work and care for her son,” said her case manager, Linda.

“Once Brianna knew she could balance her son’s care, her job and occupational training, Brianna was 110 percent committed to occupational training,” Linda added.

After completing her internship, Brianna began an aggressive job search. Within three weeks, she was employed as a phlebotomy technician at PPD, a drug research agency. “My job duties are to draw blood, collect urine, take vital signs and electrocardiogram tests,” she said.

Brianna’s next step is to complete her Phlebotomy Certification exam, part of her plan to further her education and knowledge in the medical field. She advises others to find success by defining their goals and pursuing them.

“My advice is to never give up on a goal that is to better yourself, especially if you have support right behind you. Take advantage of a great opportunity!” Brianna said.

About WIOA Youth
WIOA Youth is part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program funded through Workforce Solutions Capital Area. WIOA is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job. WIOA offers financial assistance to eligible individuals for job search assistance, training, and other support services.

Visit our WIOA page to learn more.

Austin Students Can Explore Careers and Successful Futures at Youth Career Fest

23 Jan

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For middle school and high school students in Austin, January means more than just going back to school—it means exploring future career opportunities with many local employers at the annual Youth Career Fest event.

This year, Youth Career Fest will be held on Wednesday, January 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center. Students in grades 8 through 12 will explore new career fields, learn the required steps to entering different industries, and engage with career and higher education representatives.

In 2014, Austin Youth Council created this event to help their high school peers find the answers to their questions about transitioning to the workforce or to higher education. The number of participating employers has grown each year since then—in 2018, more than 140 local employers and higher education representatives attended.

If you would like to learn more about Youth Career Fest, contact Lexi Demos at lexi.demos@austintexas.gov or Dr. Chiquita Eugene at Chiquita.eugene@austintexas.gov.

Will you be attending Youth Career Fest? What do you hope to learn about at this year’s event? Tell us in a comment below!

Employers Can Find the Skilled Workforce They Need with the On-the-Job Training Program

15 Jan

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Austin’s economy continues to grow, with a record low unemployment rate. For local employers, this can make hiring and retaining workers a challenge. Fortunately, solutions exist to expedite the hiring process, such as the On-the-Job Training program (OJT) offered by Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

Participating employers sign a training agreement with Workforce Solutions Capital Area and hire eligible OJT candidates. Participating employers may receive a 50 percent reimbursement on a 40-hour work week for full-time employment opportunities for three months.

One employer that has found success and satisfaction with the OJT program is Mechanical and Process Systems LLC (MPS). MPS is a construction contractor specializing in piping systems, HVAC installation, industrial process systems, plumbing, ductwork and more. MPS was founded in 2003 and today employs 33 people.

MPS is a State of Texas Certified Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) vendor, and a City of Austin Certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) vendor, indicating their commitment to employing and training underrepresented populations.

In May 2018, the company, which is a member of Plumber & Pipefitters Local Union 286, began participating in the On-the-Job Training (OJT) program with Workforce Solutions. Mark Mapes, Plumbing Superintendent at MPS, attended the union’s May 2018 pre-apprenticeship class and met the graduates. At the pre-apprenticeship class, Joe Cooper, the training director at the union and a member of Workforce Solutions’ Board of Directors, introduced MPS to Workforce Solutions’ staff. MPS decided to enter the OJT program and in June 2018 hired four of the graduates from the class.

Catherine Mendez, Office Manager at MPS, helps coordinate the company’s involvement in the program, and found it to be a positive experience for workers, as well as an enlightening one.

“I think it is a good way for younger people to see there is more here than just graduating high school and going into tech,” she said. “There is still demand for skilled trades, and I am a firm believer that getting these people to work is a good idea.”

Mark said, “I was impressed by the resources Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers for these young workers. They can receive assistance for gas and tools, and that really helps them out in the long run by having the necessary tools to do their jobs well.”

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“MPS clearly understands the value of apprenticeship models and other training programs such as OJT to build a region’s workforce,” said Lee Pendleton, Business Solutions Manager at Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

“Our new workers have never worked in the construction industry before, but they are catching on quickly,” said Mark. “They are more than willing to learn all they can. They have goals to work to support their families, so their minds are in the right place to move forward.”

Michele Tamo-Wafo, one of the four candidates, has found the experience a beneficial one. “I’ve been looking for a job that could guarantee me a better future, and this experience has been great and benefitable. The professional skills I’m learning are perfect,” he said.

“What I enjoy the most is learning hands-on in the field.” Michele said. “People looking for work opportunities should join one of Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s programs, because they have a lot of opportunity.”

Employers can find many benefits by participating in the OJT program, such as reducing the costs related to hiring, according to Mark.img_3901

“I think it is a good deal because the employer can hire younger people that may not necessarily know if they want to be in this trade and evaluate the employee before committing fully,” Mark said. “It good to have another resource to help with wages, and the additional resources from Workforce Solutions Capital Area are an incentive for employers to participate.”

Catherine said, “I’d like to add the paperwork on my end is easy, and I am very thankful for that.”

Workers can also benefit by receiving an opportunity to experience a new occupation without committing to something they may want to leave later.

“This gives the employees a chance to learn a trade and to actually decide if they want to be in the trade without committing and later giving up,” said Mark.

“Workers receive guidance and help, and employers receive resources for hiring. It’s a win-win situation,” said Catherine.

Today, the four hires are working in plumbing and pipefitting, and learning how to weld. Three of the new hires joined Local 286 and are training as apprentices. With new skills and responsibilities, the three apprentices are now earning $16 an hour.

“As a small company, MPS understands the value of innovation and cooperation,” said Lee.

About On-the-Job Training
To help employers acquire the skilled workers they need, Workforce Solutions Capital Area can fund on-the-job training for eligible individuals. The new hires will learn job skills while working full-time. Pending eligibility, Workforce Solutions Capital Area may reimburse the employer for up to 50 percent of the new hire’s salary for up to three months.

Interested employers must commit to hiring and retaining the individuals who successfully complete their training programs. To learn more about available assistance for employers, visit our Employee Services page.

Today is the Day to Declutter Your Desk

14 Jan

secretary is organizing files and documents in office

The second Monday of January annually recognizes National Clean Off Your Desk Day. On January 14, let’s begin the new year with a clean and organized workspace.

Rising stacks of reports, stained coffee mugs and dirty dishes from the last holiday potluck can make for a cluttered and distracting workspace. Keeping your desk organized and clean will help you keep your concentration and satisfaction in your work.

Keep these three tips in mind to clean up your desk—and keep it clean!

Declutter every day. Make a habit of clearing off snack wrappers, dishes, and old notes from your desk before you go home each day. Set out the documents you will need in the morning. This way, your desk will be clean and ready for work in the morning.

Scan and save. Decrease desktop clutter and minimize the risk of losing important information by scanning printed documents and saving them as PDFs on your computer. Using digital copies saves space on your desk, and saves paper, too.

Keep it clean. Keep disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer close by and wipe down surfaces weekly. Increase your cleanings to daily during flu season to prevent the spread of germs.

Looking for more cleaning inspiration? Follow the #CleanOffYourDeskDay hastag. If you have some cleaning suggestions, share them in a comment below!

Prescribe Your Thanks on National Pharmacist Day

12 Jan

Two women working in a pharmacy

Did you make a speedy recovery the last time you had a cold? There’s no better time to thank the person who helped you than today, National Pharmacist Day. A day like today is important as healthcare becomes more collaborative and more pharmacists are integrated into care teams.

In the Austin/Travis County area, pharmacy technician is an in-demand job with many openings. Pharmacy technicians work at retail pharmacies and healthcare facilities, where they advise and help patients, learn new pharmacy technology (like robotic dispensing machines) and call doctors’ offices and insurance companies. Austinites working in this occupation earned an entry level wage of $12.42 an hour in 2017, above the national entry level wage of $11.23 an hour.

Valerie Martinez is a young Austin resident who is pursuing her professional and educational goals on a path that leads through Austin’s healthcare sector. Her journey to becoming a pharmacy technician started with a chance encounter with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Program at Goodwill Central Texas. Read Valerie’s story here.

As part of this growing recognition of healthcare workers, Pharmacy Times, a full-service pharmacy media resource, launched the #APharmacistIs campaign to link messages and photos of thanks from the American public to these healthcare workers. Use the hashtag today to show your appreciation. Have another idea in mind to celebrate America’s pharmacists? Tell us in a comment below!

On the Path to Self-Sufficiency

6 Dec

Vanessa Contreras is a single mother with a young child. Over the summer of 2018, she applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). HHSC determined Vanessa was eligible for the Choices program, which provides one-on-one job search assistance and support services for people receiving TANF assistance.

Next, Vanessa came to Workforce Solutions Capital Area and attended a Workforce Orientation for Applicants in July 2018. This was her introduction to the many services available to Austin residents like herself.

Vanessa met with Hilaria Gonzales, a program support specialist at Workforce Solutions Capital Area. Together, they planned for Vanessa’s success in the Choices program.

Vanessa Contreras

Vanessa Contreras

Vanessa faced many barriers at the time—first was finding child care for her newborn. Because many child care centers do not accept newborn children, Vanessa was able to secure temporary care through friends. With this assistance, Vanessa completed her orientation and the four-day Career MAPS workshops offered at Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s three Career Centers and began her job search.

“Vanessa was determined to be self-sufficient,” Hilaria said. “Although she faced barriers, she was not deterred from attending workshops, meeting program guidelines, and finding employment. She utilized all the resources at the Career Center to find a job.”

For Vanessa, the information she learned at the workshops and her experiences in Choices helped to raise her awareness of how much value these services can provide to job seekers like herself: “At first, I was not interested in it so much, but after I started my job searching and my weekly meetings with Hilaria, I noticed she was into helping me so much to find a job and find child care.”

Vanessa added, “It was more than what I thought it would be. I liked it: how they treat you, how they go on to help you find a job and push you and help you reach for more.”

Within two weeks, in early August 2018, Vanessa found care for her child with assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area, and a job as a day porter supervisor with the janitorial crew at Clean Texas Janitorial. She now works full-time and is determined to continue employment to provide for her new family.

“I put in a lot of hours, more than I expected, but it gives me an opportunity to open doors and be more than a part-time worker like when I started. I didn’t expect to earn this responsibility in such a short time,” said Vanessa.

“Vanessa has learned the value of communication and keeps us informed of any changes,” Hilaria said. “She completed her first 60 days of employment in November. Our support has empowered a single mother to be on the path towards self-sufficiency.”

For other job seekers who may not be aware of all the valuable services available at Workforce Solutions Capital Area, as she once was, Vanessa offered some advice: “Reach for your goals: this can go a long way and you can find a good job. Workforce Solutions is here to help you succeed, and not just give you a job just to have a job,” she said.

“They want you to achieve and reach for your goals. Don’t settle for something small—they are here to help you be the best worker employers are looking for,” Vanessa said.

 

About Choices
For individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers one-on-one job search assistance and support services through the Choices program. This no-cost employment program was designed to give TANF recipients the assistance and support they need to find a job. Specifically, Choices can provide assistance with job searching, child care, transportation and more.

Visit Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s TANF page to learn more.

For GenTX Month, Let’s Celebrate Texas Students Preparing Their Education Future

20 Nov

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November is GenerationTX (GenTX) Month! This month is the opening of the 2019-2020 FAFSA and TASFA application process, so it’s a perfect time to encourage Texas students to apply for college and prepare for the next steps in their education.

GenTX is an initiative from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) that combines the statewide College Application and Financial Aid Awareness campaign, the nationwide American College Application Campaign initiative, and the 60x30TX Texas Challenge to Reach Higher efforts into one exciting month to encourage students to complete a college application and FAFSA.

What kind of opportunities are available for students who continue on their education path after high school? Healthcare, information technology, and skilled trades and advanced manufacturing are the three key sectors of the Austin/Travis County area, and related in-demand occupations include:

  • Certified Nursing Assistants: Through 2026, Austin’s economy will add 4,637 roles in this occupation.
  • Computer Programmers: The entry-level wage for this occupation is $27.41 per hour in Austin.
  • Electricians: This occupation earns an entry-level wage of $16.66 per hour, which is almost 8% more than the state entry-level wage.

Across Texas, schools are observing GenTX Month to encourage and celebrate students who are applying for financial aid and planning and applying to institutions of higher learning. How will you celebrate GenTX Month? Tell us in a comment below!