Brianna Pleasant is Building a Career in Austin’s Culinary World

19 Feb
Brianna Pleasant

Brianna Pleasant

Young residents of Austin/Travis County who are interested in job skills training and employment opportunities can find them with Workforce Solutions Capital Area and partners like Goodwill Central Texas. Brianna Pleasant discovered just such an opportunity in 2019 and today is exploring a future in Austin’s culinary world.

In March 2019, Brianna visited a friend at her former high school. While there, Brianna met her friend’s counselor, who talked with Brianna about support services available at Goodwill.

“She said I might try the program, because it could help me get my driver’s license and a job within a specific field,” Brianna said.

At Goodwill, Brianna met with Shaun-Patrice Williams, In School Youth Career Case Manager. Together, they explored opportunities for Brianna to continue her education and in-demand occupations to pursue as a future career in Austin’s skilled workforce.

Brianna completed her CAT training with Goodwill, and next interned at the Central Texas Food Bank from July to October. While there, she completed the Food Bank’s Culinary Training Program, a 12-week mix of classroom time and hands-on job training for basic culinary skills. The program provides real-world experience in the Food Bank’s kitchen, where students like Brianna work with commercial equipment and food production. Brianna also received transportation assistance from Goodwill to go to and from her training and internship.Goodwill Central Texas offers a variety of job-readiness training programs, 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.

While participating, Brianna completed 30 hours of food safety training and earned the ServSafe Food Handler’s certification. Her internship was a paid one, “which helped me to save money for a car,” Brianna said.

With her training complete and her internship successfully concluded, Brianna began job searching—and quickly found work at Jeffrey’s, a New American restaurant in west Austin.

“On my graduation day, I started my job as a pastry line cook at Jeffrey’s,” Brianna said. “My day goes by in increments of 23 minutes as I bake bread for the ever-growing crowds of hungry customers. I also make cheese boards, the most popular dessert we offer.”

What’s next for Brianna? Plans for home ownership and continuing her culinary education!

“I’m considering getting a second job and moving into a home of my own while finishing up my driver’s license. I’m also considering joining Austin Community College’s culinary program to further my education in the culinary world, and possibly 3-D design, too,” said Brianna.

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.

We served 371 youth through this program in 2019. Visit our WIOA page to learn more.

At Westview Middle School, an Eighth Grade Group Inspires the Student Body About Future Careers in Austin’s Workforce

7 Feb

Victoria Leonardo, standing second from left, with student organizers at the career fair.

For Westview Middle School in Pflugerville Independent School District, February was a big month for career exploration.

Sixteen eighth graders, participating in the civics program Speak Up, Speak Out, hosted their school’s first career fair on February 7 with assistance from Victoria Leonardo, our Career & Education Outreach Specialist for Pflugerville Independent School District.

Speak Up, Speak Out is a civic education program designed to teach third grade through twelfth grade students about their communities, and is led by the Moody College of Communication at the university of Texas at Austin.

“Many of the students have parents who work low-skill jobs, so the youth think that’s all that is available to them,” Victoria said. “With this event, we can introduce them to many different occupations that they may have not thought about before and understand what it takes to get these jobs.”

Eighth grader Camila Valdez said, “It’s about how students aren’t well informed about careers. We want to help them take better paths to a better future.”

Eight hundred fifty students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades attended the career fair in the school’s gym and interacted with 16 partners, including Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin Carpenters Local 1266, and Westview’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers.

To fill the gym with vendors to speak to students, the organizers worked together to make a lot of phone calls, according to Jasmine Cortes, a Speak Up, Speak Out member: “We started by contacting people to come. We worked together to find people to come, and our teacher put in time to contact people. We planned it all in a short time.”

Alfredo Mendoza helped create banners for the partners and set up tables beforehand: “I was nervous at the beginning, but by working together we got it done. I saw a lot of kids interacting and enjoying the career fair,” he said.

Candace Hennessy is a recruiting coordinator for Parsley Energy who attended the career fair. “It was a great first experience for me. Most of the kids were engaged and all of them were respectful, so it was fun interacting with them,” she said.

Jennifer Painter-Beillon, Round Rock Campus Director for Central Texas Beauty College, said, “The kids were so engaging. Better engagement than any other school we’ve been to, including the high schools.”

Our team of outreach specialists serve students in grades 6 through 12 in Austin, Del Valle, Elgin, Manor and Pflugerville ISDs. This is a two-year program in partnership with school districts throughout the Austin metro area, for which we received a Workforce Career and Education Outreach Specialist Grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Our team of specialists has served more than 11,000 students since the grant began in July 2019.

Garza High School Seniors Discover Career-Related Learning Opportunities at Programs Showcase

5 Feb

ACC Programs Showcase

What to do after graduating high school? Some seniors plan to go to work, others to continue their education. But where to take their learning? At Garza High School, 160 seniors interested in what their local community college offers explored opportunities at the Austin Community College (ACC) Programs Showcase on February 5, 2020.

Representatives from 13 ACC programs, including Engineering & Manufacturing, Computer Studies, and Dental Hygienist, met with students throughout the day in the school’s gym. ACC’s Financial Aid and Support Center, which provides childcare scholarships and textbooks, provided students information about supportive services available to community college students. Also represented was the Workforce and Education Readiness Continuum (WERC), a City of Austin- and Travis County-funded network of community partners linked to help prepare Austin-area residents to enter or reenter the job market.

The Programs Showcase came together thanks to the coordinating efforts of Stephanie Calderon, one of our four Career & Education Outreach Specialists. Stephanie serves students, parents, teachers and counselors in south Austin and Del Valle Independent School Districts.

“It’s important for students to learn about career pathways available at their local community college,” Stephanie said. “Some seniors think ACC is only for the basics, but there are many different departments to find careers needed in our workforce.”

Christine Garza, 18, was most interested in the Childcare & Development program: “It was my favorite. I learned about the basics of what they do and the process of what the class can provide for me,” Christine said.

“After graduation, I’m going to decide on a four-year degree or go to ACC,” Christine said. “I definitely want to earn a four-year degree, with a major in social work or maybe psychology.”


Christine Garza, 18, talks with Stephanie Calderon, a Career and Education Outreach Specialist at Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

Our team of outreach specialists serve students in grades 6 through 12 in Austin, Del Valle, Elgin, Manor and Pflugerville ISDs. This is a two-year program in partnership with school districts throughout the Austin metro area, for which we received a Workforce Career and Education Outreach Specialist Grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Our team of specialists has served more than 11,000 students since the grant began in July 2019.

Texas Veterans Find Employment Opportunities in Austin at Hiring Red, White & You!

13 Dec


Hiring Red, White & You! is an annual statewide hiring event for veterans, hosted by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) in cooperation with all 28 workforce development boards. This year, we partnered with TWC, the Texas Veterans Commission, and the City of Austin to host the job fair at our North Career Center on November 7.

The event was an enormous success: 172 job seekers, including 93 veterans, connected with 46 employers and 14 service providers to explore work and training opportunities in Austin’s skilled workforce.

One of those hiring employers was the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). Jim Espinoza, an HR recruiter, represented the Giddings State School, a juvenile correctional facility near Giddings in Lee County.

“My supervisor at the central office invited me to the Austin job fair, and I said I would love to,” Jim said. “Registering for this event was simple, convenient and efficient.”

At Hiring Red, White & You, Jim would raise awareness about career opportunities as youth development coaches at the Giddings State School.

“The coaches act as mentors and positive role models for youth, to help them with rehabilitation and meeting all their needs,” Jim said. “We also have mental health specialists, case managers and teachers and teacher’s aides at each facility.”

At Hiring Red, White & You, Jim shared job opportunities with interested veterans throughout the day: “I had a lot of good face-to-face contact with veterans, young men and women who shared a lot with me, had copies of their resumes for me, and took a liking to what TJJD offers. I had close to 40 signatures from job seekers who wanted to be contacted.”

For Jim, this veterans job fair was a valuable opportunity to network with other hiring organizations to connect Austin’s veterans with job openings.

“Hiring Red, White & You has a good setup where people can spread the word about employment opportunities. I looked across the room and saw a little bit of everything,” Jim said. “I met many good people and I will remember them because I can make referrals for the veterans I meet.’

Over the rest of November, Jim interviewed five veterans who expressed interest in working as youth development coaches at the Giddings State School and hired three.

“We had a big increase of applicants online and individuals going to the facility to turn in an application,” said Jim. “Interest has blossomed, and we have received a lot more exposure, which is a win for everybody—especially the veterans who find work that makes them happy and meets what they would love to do.”

For employers interested in hiring more veterans, Jim offered this advice: “Mark your calendars and come to this event. Hiring Red, White & You impressed me, and I had a good feeling when I left. I will be attending from here on out.”

Veterans Services
If you are a veteran looking for a job, Workforce Solutions Capital Area can assist you with your search. Veterans receive priority for job and training referrals at our three Career Centers. Our career specialists are specifically trained to help veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and can help you achieve maximum employment and training opportunities. Learn more about available services for veterans.

Recognition for Registered Apprenticeship Expansion at the 23rd Annual Workforce Conference

10 Dec
Award presentation

Workforce Solutions Capital Area received an award of $100,000 for Registered Apprenticeship expansion initiatives.

Big news for Austin’s skilled workforce development: the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board received the inaugural Registered Apprenticeship Expansion Award of $100,000 from the Texas Workforce Commission on December 4 at the 23rd Annual Workforce Conference in Dallas!

Registered Apprenticeship (RA) is an important solution toward strengthening Austin’s skilled workforce. Through RAs, residents can acquire valuable skills in a variety of in-demand occupations across key economic sectors, including skilled trades and advanced manufacturing, and employers can fill open positions with local talent who possess the required skills.

We’re working with many of our community partners to introduce new apprenticeship programs and expand existing ones. Such as the electrical pre-apprenticeship program for students at Navarro High School, created in partnership with TRIO Electric, Austin ISD, and Austin Community College (ACC). This year saw the launch of the second cohort at Navarro, and TRIO’s expansion of the program to Premiere High School – Austin North, a public charter school.

We partnered with Texas Mutual Insurance Company and KVUE, our local ABC affiliate, for Trade Up Texas, a career exploration and awareness campaign. Together, we created a website and a video series to introduce interested residents to training and employment opportunities in the trades. The campaign ran from December 2018 to June 2019, and is one of many initiatives we have joined Texas Mutual for to inspire Austinites to become professional, safe workers contributing to our region’s economic competitiveness.


Amber Warne, Director of Upskilling and Advancement; Marie Matisans, Business Relations Coordinator; and Leah Meunier, Chief Strategy Officer.

Another new pathway to RA is the Certified Production Technician Training Program funded by Texas Mutual and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and offered by Workforce Solutions Capital Area in partnership with ACC and the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association. The program offers free manufacturing production training and paid internships, and 22 people have completed the program thus far, including Tony Gayles, a hearing impaired job seeker who now works full time at Community Impact Printing in Pflugerville.

Have you participated in an RA program? Which apprenticeable occupation is your favorite? Tell us in a comment below!

Erric Davis is an Advocate for Veterans Seeking Careers in Austin

4 Dec
Erric Davis served as a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy.

Erric Davis served as a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy.

Although he was away from Austin for 26 years, Erric Davis is an Austin native, born and raised. For 24 of those years, Erric was a Boatswain’s Mate in the U.S. Navy, serving on five ships and three shore commands on the West Coast and in San Antonio. After retiring at the rank of Chief Petty Officer, Erric and his family moved to Austin.

Now a veteran, Erric began pursuing his postsecondary education. As a veteran with service-connected disabilities, Erric received Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This included paid training and a monthly living expense stipend.

With this support, Erric earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Concordia University Texas where he graduated magna cum laude.

“While I was in school, I took coursework on project management and connected the dots—this is very similar to what I did in the Navy,” said Erric. “l asked around for where a veteran can go for help to ‘plain talk’ what I did as a service member so that civilian employers would better understand my role in the service.”

Erric’s search led him to, the state’s premier job site with features designed to improve talent and job matching for job seekers and employers alike. Erric found information for veterans on WorkinTexas and connected with Sean Jevning with the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC).

“Sean gave me a lot of information and helped me to get hired on at the Texas Department of Public Safety in 2016. I finished my education while I was there and transitioned to project management through the help of TVC,” Erric said.

During this time, Erric began visiting Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s North Career Center, where he met with Michelle Gilbert, a Veterans Career Advisor and Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist with TVC.

Michelle took my resume and polished it, and she also helped me transfer my resume to my WorkinTexas account,” Erric said. “She helped me with job seeking and she continued to track my education and made sure I was on par.”

“Michelle shared all types of useful, helpful resources, including YouTube channels for interviews, a mock job interview, job-search strategies, and tips on how to dress. The amount of assistance she gave me was immeasurable,” said Erric.

“I realized as someone who is doing job interviews to just go out there and do it—you may not get the job, but it’s an opportunity to interview and get comfortable doing it. I was a willing participant, which is most important,” he said.

For Erric, the service he received from the career center staff contributed to making his job search experience a positive one: “I felt like I was receiving white glove service. When the front desk staff realized I was a veteran, they would thank me for my service and reach out to Michelle. I felt welcomed, I felt important. My accomplishments in the service weren’t looked down upon,” he said.

Erric Davis

Erric Davis is now a project manager with TDLR

“Erric has expressed his appreciation to me for the employment services he received from the Texas Veterans Commission and additional information he received regarding the veteran’s benefits he is entitled to that he didn’t know about,” said Michelle.

In early 2019, Erric joined the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) as a project manager.

“TDLR issues and regulates 39 license types in Texas. I have created a process to update our approximate 1,000 applications for those different license types so that our constituents are able to fill them out online via a fillable PDF,” Erric said.

“I also manage several other projects, including software upgrades and other technological advancements for internal stakeholders. We are seeking to change some of our manual processes to automated processes and I am fortunate to be involved in those discussions and changes,” he added.

“Michelle linked me up with the most awesome state agency. TDLR loves veterans and we are recognized for the number of veterans we have here,” said Erric.

“Erric is an advocate for all veterans, and for the employment services offered at the Workforce Solutions career centers and the Texas Veterans Commission,” said Michelle.

For others who are following in Erric’s footsteps, and transitioning from uniformed service to Austin’s workforce, Erric offers this advice: “Be prepared and know what you want to do. Take advantage of the services that the State of Texas offers to veterans, and especially, the employment services offered by the Texas Veterans Commission.

“I don’t know of any other state that is so supportive to veterans. This is the second state I’ve lived in since retiring and Texas is absolutely welcoming and supportive to those of us who have fulfilled the commitment to serve our country,” he said.

“Use your benefits. As veterans, we have a lot to offer in the workforce and it is important that you take advantage of the benefits available through the State of Texas,” Erric said.

“Also, educate other veterans on the services available. You’d be surprised how many veterans are not aware of the benefits that are available. Be the testimonial they need to witness, so they too can take advantage of all the services and benefits available to veterans in Texas.”

At Two Austin High Schools, Educators and Employers Guide the Next Generation of Electricians

12 Nov

TRIO Electric Commitment Ceremony

Offering pre-apprentice dual credit courses can benefit schools and employers alike. For schools introducing career and technical education (CTE) programs, they can gain industry input and guidance from career professionals. For participating employers, they have the opportunity to help guide the next generation of skilled workers.

At Navarro High School, a pre-apprentice dual credit course is available for students who want to become the future electricians of Austin. The course, now in its second year, is part of a partnership between electrical contractor TRIO Electric, Austin Independent School District and Austin Community College, and is free to participating students.

A second program debuted this year at Premier High School – Austin North, a ResponsiveEd public charter school. Premier assembled an on-site fabrication lab on campus for students to earn high school credits while training for two years alongside TRIO’s employees. The program is intended to help dedicated students come away with the experience needed to begin a career as an electrician right after graduation.

Both programs teach students how to be safe, productive and skilled electricians as well as other employable and soft skills. Participating students attended commitment ceremonies at both schools on October 28, 2019.

Students are bused to TRIO Electric and learn about the work electricians perform, including how to read electrical blueprints and bend conduits. The programs offer learning outside of the classroom as well. Students visit construction job sites to observe the work being completed and are offered paid full-time internships in the summer.

Ceremony at Premiere High School

At Premiere High School – Austin North, nine students joined TRIO Electric’s program.

Beau Pollock, President and CEO of TRIO Electric, said, “There is a major demand for skilled labor here. With this program, we can give you a skill to help you get a job to fulfill that demand. When you become part of that supply chain, you will have a great foundation from which to grow from.”

“You are making the choice to join this program and commit to TRIO, ACC, AISD and most importantly to yourself. The definition of commitment is a state of being dedicated to an activity. That activity is learning the electrical trade,” said Beau.

“If you finish the program and are employable, then you will earn a job. That job will lead to a new car, like some of our recent graduates who now can afford transportation. It leads to a savings account, and then a foundation for you to explore options. We will give you the jobs. What you do with those jobs is up to you,” said Beau.


Indego Clemons and Beau Pollock, , President and CEO of TRIO Electric.

Indego Clemons, an 18-year-old senior at Premier, joined the program because he sees it as a pathway toward owning his own business.

“My dad owns several businesses, and that inspires me to have my own. I want to invest in my businesses to make more money,” Indego said.

“It’s been really fun, especially when we do hands-on training. Bending metal bars and learning about wiring and connections is the most fun for me,” said Indego.

Chris Thomas is a master electrician who has worked for Austin Independent School District for seven years, maintaining electrical systems at schools across the district. Today, he is the Electrician Trade Instructor at Navarro. For Chris, offering courses like this one are valuable because they help put students on positive directions in life.

“A course like this gives students an early start in learning a trade, and when they graduate they can get a decent paying job to use for the rest of their life if they don’t or can’t go to full-time college,” said Thomas.

Ceremony at Navarro High School

At Navarro High School, 29 students are participating in the program’s second cohort in 2019.

Victor Reyes is a senior at Navarro and a graduate of the first cohort. His advice to the new participants: “The most important thing is to have fun. It’s an amazing and fun class, so enjoy it. You have an electrifying opportunity, so take advantage of it and enjoy yourselves.”

Nallely Silva Knows What She Can Accomplish

16 Sep
Nallely Silva

Nallely Silva

After making the decision to switch careers, how can you be certain you know every step to take next? A life choice like this can be daunting if you’re unsure how to proceed, and more so if you are raising a child. To help ease the process, Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers a variety of services for parents who are seeking work, like Nallely Silva.

In late 2017, Nallely was raising a 3-year-old boy and working at a dental clinic. She was having a bad day, but it soon began to improve: “I was working at the front desk and I was crying because I felt like a failure. I was going through a separation and felt I needed to do something with my life,” Nallely said. “There was a hygienist there who asked me what was going on.”

The hygienist recommended Nallely get in touch with Capital IDEA, one of our community partners that provides financial support and professional guidance to nontraditional students.

“She said she had received assistance from Workforce Solutions and Capital IDEA and had found a job while caring for her five children, so if she can do it then I can. She helped me sign up,” Nallely said.

At Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s North Career Center, Nallely met with Theresa Nealy, Child Care Navigator, who assisted Nallely in enrolling in the Continuity of Care (CoC) program. CoC provides quality child care services while parents search for a job and is funded by the City of Austin and Travis County.

Once enrolled, Nallely began working part time and taking classes at Austin Community College with a focus on occupational therapy. She also studied for certificates as a Registered Dental Assistant and Certified Nursing Assistant, with support from Capital IDEA.

“I brought my son to child care early and I had classes early in the morning, so it was an adjustment for sure,” Nallely said.

Even with long days and a busy class schedule, Nallely found the experience satisfying and the healthcare industry as a place where she can thrive: “I think I have a calling for healthcare. People have shared with me that I am very intuitive, and I really understand my relationship with my client.

“I mold myself to what they need, and I can relate to them. I have a lot of empathy and I feel that is very important in the healthcare field because you are dealing with people—their lives and families—and not numbers,” said Nallely.

Today, Nallely works in a private home healthcare role for Blue Water Homecare at an assisted living facility: “I am with one person, which I love. I like to be with one person to learn what they need from me, it’s interesting and fun.”

Nallely’s direct supervisor, a Registered Nurse, graduated with Capital IDEA’s assistance in 2009: “I feel that she understands my need for flexibility with my schedule and can relate to the demands of juggling school, work and single motherhood,” said Nallely.

“She takes a special interest in supporting my goals, providing me with access to valuable learning opportunities and professional mentorship that will help me be successful in my future career,” Nallely said.

“Nallely is a great example of how the right support, coupled with determination, can lead to success for individuals and their families. For Nallely and other parents returning to school, childcare is critical. We were able to provide Nallely with career guidance and financial support for her education,” said Eva M. Rios-Lleverino, Deputy Executive Director at Capital IDEA.

“Our partners—Workforce Solutions Capital Area, the City of Austin and Travis County—through through Continuity Care ensured Nallely’s son was in good hands. As a result, Nallely was able to set a career goal, invest time in studying, and earn credentials that will continue to benefit her the rest of her life,” Eva said.

Looking ahead, Nallely plans to continue her education by earning a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree and ultimately a master’s degree. Nallely knows this will be a challenging experience, but she also knows that she is ready for it.

“Changing like this is hard, especially if you have children or if you don’t have a steady income. But it’s so worth it,” Nallely said. “If you know you have potential, then just do it. Looking back, it was so fun and it’s amazing to learn what you can handle and do in such a short amount of time.”


About Continuity of Care
Continuity of Care (CoC) serves as a dual-generation program for low-income families in Travis County, focusing on the whole child as well as the family and community context for growth and development. CoC ensures continuity of services in instances where child care would otherwise be terminated, such as when parents have completed workforce development programs and are currently seeking employment.

CoC ensures continuity of high-quality child care for low income families, serves as an investment rather than an expenditure to the City of Austin because it promotes family self-sufficiency by increasing family capacity to gain or maintain earnings, and provides consistent high-quality child care which helps prepare children to enter kindergarten.

This program is funded by Travis County and the City of Austin, and administered by the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board. Workforce Orientation for Applicants (WOA) is an introduction to Workforce Solutions office services.

Katy Moreno Takes All Opportunities to Grow

14 Aug

Young residents of Austin/Travis County who are interested in job skills training and employment opportunities can find them with Workforce Solutions Capital Area and partners like American YouthWorks (AYW). That’s what Katy Moreno began doing in 2018, and today Katy is progressing toward a career in Austin’s growing healthcare industry.

Katy joined AYW in 2018, and met with Lindsey Martinez, Youth Services Career Case Manager, who assisted Katy in enrolling in YouthBuild. This youth services program combines academics with career training, leadership development, and community service at no cost to students.

Katy earned her GED with AYW in December 2018. Additional assistance she received included an internship in the Health Corp program at AYW and building a resume.

“When Katy first came into the program, she had a past of struggling with school in a traditional setting but found her way when she came to the doors of AYW’s GED program,” Lindsey said.

Katy Moreno

Katy Moreno

Taking the first steps of her healthcare career, Katy next earned her Community Health Worker (CHW) and Nursing Assistant certifications in the Health Corps program. Health Corps combines classroom training with hands-on skills and certifications. Students gain practical experience doing screenings at community health fairs, organizing blood donation events, or volunteering with local care providers.

“I’m an independent person, so when it comes to having to study and get in my zone to pass my tests, I pushed myself to the limit. I studied for two months at AYW, and when no one else attended after clinicals, I created ideas and study tactics on my own like doing blood pressure tests on staff,” said Katy.

“Katy is very resourceful and on top of her game. She has learned to advocate for herself in order to receive the help and guidance that she is needing,” Lindsey said.

As an intern with Health Corps, Katy mentored and tutored other students throughout their time in clinicals and assisted with service projects like blood drives.

“Because of this, AYW staff asked Katy to come on as an AmeriCorps member to continue to serve the students in a program that Katy herself once attended,” Lindsey said.

Now as an AmeriCorps member at AYW, Katy serves as a positive role model to the youth attending school there: “I plan and create hands-on activities and service projects. Right now, I am working on a mural of all the Health Corps pathways,” Katy said.

“I am showing the steps toward a job in eight healthcare occupations. From CHW, you can be a healthcare educator or attorney, for example, and I’m mapping all that to have all the information right in front of the students,” said Katy.

The CHW and Nursing Assistant certifications were just the beginning for Katy’s healthcare education, and she has also earned educational aide and special educational aide certifications: “I’m trying to take as many classes and earn as many certifications as I can within the healthcare field,” she said.

“I really want to earn my Phlebotomist and Licensed Vocational Nurse certifications next. I will attend Austin Community College and I am currently working on my FAFSA form,” she said.

“I really like being able to share information related to what I’ve learned and having my certifications allows me to do that,” Katy said.

“Katy is a great example of someone who takes advantage of all opportunities for growth and advancement. She wants to continue to gain experience in the health field so that she can become a nurse. All of Katy’s hard work should be recognized!” Lindsey said.

For Katy, it’s important for young Austin residents pursuing their education and job skills to understand that it can’t all be done right away: “Sometimes young people may want everything right away, like a job, and that can take time to happen. I spoke with some students who left because they didn’t want to wait three months to complete the certification class. They didn’t realize that’s free knowledge and experience they could have gained,” she said.

“Some students may not want to take certifications, but it’s the little things that make you qualified for jobs and earn you more experience,” Katy 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.

How Partnering with Texas Mutual Creates Systemic Change in Austin’s Workforce

26 Jul

Logo - Texas Mutual

Building a skilled workforce in Austin requires many partners, such as the businesses that employ Austin’s workers. One of our dedicated partners is Texas Mutual Insurance Company, which has been in business in Austin for almost 30 years with the mission of building a stronger, safer Texas.

Our relationship with Texas Mutual began in early 2018, when Tamara Atkinson, Chief Executive Officer for Workforce Solutions Capital Area, presented the Austin Metro Area Master Community Workforce Plan (Master Plan) at events hosted by Leadership Austin and the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“Tamara talked about the Master Plan, its goals and target audiences, and it became clear to me that the people Workforce Solutions serves include the employee base of the businesses we insure the most—skilled trades and advanced manufacturing, and healthcare too,” said Jeremiah Bentley, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Engagement at Texas Mutual.

“One of the things we hear from our insurers is a challenge attracting and retaining talent. It seemed like a natural fit to become involved with Workforce Solutions to support that common goal and to help create skilled talent,” Jeremiah said. “It’s also part of our mission to help create economic opportunities for the people who could take advantage of services offered by Workforce Solutions as reflected by the Master Plan.”

VR Safety Zone demonstration

Photo: Ed Sparks Photography

Why emphasize the importance of a skilled workforce? The effort benefits workers and businesses alike, which compounds the overall benefit created for Austin’s economy.

“We know skilled workers are more productive and are hurt less often because they have the knowledge and training to work safely, so it’s a natural fit to help our policyholders acquire that talent. It helps them succeed and grow and helps build a strong economy, and ultimately benefits us as a business too,” Jeremiah said.

“Texas Mutual succeeds when our customers succeed, so we’re always looking for opportunities to help them keep their employees safer,” Jeremiah said.

These opportunities include community involvement in safety training or safety equipment, and contributing to the funding for a baseline evaluation report on the Master Plan conducted by The Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at the University of Texas at Austin and published in October 2018.

Recently, Texas Mutual funded Trade Up Texas, a career awareness and exploration campaign for skilled trades, launched in December 2018 with funding from Texas Mutual. Along with KVUE, our local ABC affiliate, we partnered to create a Trade Up Texas website and a video series that inspired almost 2,000 Texans to pursue training and work opportunities in the trades over the campaign’s six-month lifespan.

“There is a lack of awareness about opportunities in skilled trades and a lack of awareness among the folks who can most benefit from available programs,” said Jeremiah. “These are talented people who have the will to work hard but haven’t had the exposure to what is out there. We wanted to step in and help them really understand.”

In May 2019, the Trade Up Texas campaign ended with a bang—a two-day event that connected 40 trainers and employers with over 200 people interested in the trades. Texas Mutual contributed funding to the event, called the Apprenticeship Showcase, and also volunteers and a photographer.

VR welding demonstration

Photo: Ed Sparks Photography

“We shared information about training and employment through targeted email messages to respondents tailored to match their specific interest in the trades and provided additional support to respondents with phone calls and in-person visits to our three career centers,” said Leah Meunier, Chief Strategy Officer for Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

Texas Mutual and the Certified Manufacturing Training program
Manufacturing is an important part of the Austin economy, and the second biggest sector in terms of employment in the Austin region: “It’s growing, Austin depends on a lot of their products, and if we can help place folks who are trained and talented into those jobs then it will benefit the job seekers and the business,” said Jeremiah.

In early 2019, Workforce Solutions partnered with Austin Community College (ACC) and the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association (ARMA) to launch the inaugural Certified Manufacturing Training (CPT) program. We identified 11 job seekers to participate and to each earn four certifications—the students completed classroom instruction at ACC and then a paid internship with employer members of ARMA over February and March. Job seekers like Tony Gayles, who is hearing impaired but faced his challenges to earn certifications and now works at Community Impact Printing. Funding from Texas Mutual and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation helped make the program happen.

With the success of the first cohort, we’re launching a second cohort to run from August 26 to October 25. Contact your nearest Career Center to learn more.

“These cohorts are a real tactical way to make a difference in the lives of individuals and get actionable results,” said Jeremiah. “It’s a great program: you get skills training and a certificate, and employment beyond that. It’s something real we can point to that made a difference.”

“Support from employers like Texas Mutual helps us achieve our objective of providing more training and recruiting assistance to businesses in Austin’s skilled trades and advanced manufacturing sectors,” Leah said.

Volunteers from Texas Mutual and Workforce Solutions

Photo: Ed Sparks Photography

How has partnering with Workforce Solutions benefited Texas Mutual?
Achieving the objectives of the Master Plan is not something any organization can do alone. By partnering with private businesses like Texas Mutual, we can create more effective change—to everyone’s benefit.

“Workforce Solutions fits uniquely at the intersection of government and private business working together to make real systemic change in the Austin metro area. It’s a great affiliation for us to have and Texas Mutual receives benefits from that,” said Jeremiah.

“We’ve had the opportunity to speak at Mayor Adler’s Corporate Engagement Council about our successful private-public partnership and our training programs. It’s great for brand exposure and experience,” Jeremiah said.

“People tell me they have family members interested in the trades and entering these programs. We’ve earned great recognition with the Chamber, local government and others, to confirm to them that Texas Mutual is committed to building a safer, stronger Texas,” he said.

Finding skilled talent helps businesses in the long run
With unemployment low and demand for workers high in Austin, Workforce Solutions can assist Austin’s employers with locating the skilled talent they are seeking.

“We’re focusing on skilled trades and manufacturing, but people in every industry have hiring needs and we need to think creatively about how to meet them, hopefully with local talent,” said Jeremiah.

“I think it’s important that businesses take the time to hire the right person—when you feel like you’re in a crunch, it may be tempting to hire any willing person, but that may not be the best thing for your business,” Jeremiah said. “Take your time, take advantage of resources available from Workforce Solutions, and ultimately it will pay off in the long run.”

Jeremiah added, “It’s important for larger employers to come together and collaborate on how we work together with government partners and other private businesses to build a stronger Austin overall, and I hope Texas Mutual can be an example.”

About Employer Services
Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s Business Solutions Team offers a wide array of services to help businesses find, hire, train, and retain skilled workers. To learn more about available assistance for employers, visit our Employee Services page.