Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 31-September 7, 2020)

7 Sep

2-minute read

Happy Labor Day!

Today, we honor the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. But at least 50,000 Austinites are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, especially those in face-to-face industries like hospitality and accommodation. More urgent than ever, WFS’ role for our labor force is to lift our neighbors up, connect them to the (re)training they need, and fill the talent gaps we see in hot Community Workforce Plan industries — IT, healthcare, and skilled trades/manufacturing.

In three weeks, on September 30, WFS will host the 2020 installment of our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic.

In three weeks, on September 30, WFS will host the 2020 installment of our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic. This virtual event – open to the public – is where we look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training. We will look at the status of the Austin Metro Area Community Workforce Plan, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Austin prepare for the present and the immediate future. We’re honored to be joined by Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, workforce champions who authorized Phase 1 funding for WFS to rapidly support and (re)train hundreds of Central Texans for hire at higher wages. State and local leaders will also present the latest labor exchange information, innovation, and how forward-thinking policy can help us rapidly scale our Phase 1 efforts (more below).

Although this event is virtual, be sure to register early to ensure your “seat.” Please let me know if you have any questions/comments.

In partnership, Tamara


1

Since the pandemic began in March, Austin’s unemployed Hospitality & Accommodation workers far outweigh this sector’s available jobs

Comparing jobless talent to available jobs from March 1 – July 31, we see a pronounced need to retrain entry-level workers previously in face-to-face jobs into higher-wage jobs in growing industries.

  • Food service, retail, and accommodation: There were 7x more new jobless claimants (48,423) than new job ads (6,836).

Looking at July 1-31, we still see a much larger need for talent in the high-demand Healthcare and IT sectors than hospitality jobs.

  • IT: There were 14x more new job ads than new jobless claimants previously in this sector. If you add in open positions posted before July, the difference is even more significant.
    • From March to July 2020, only 2% of unemployed claimants in Travis Co previously worked in IT.
  • Healthcare: There were6x more new job ads than new jobless claimants who previously worked in this sector.
  • Food service, retail, and accommodation: There were 1.7x more new job ads than new jobless claimants (Note: continued claims are not included in this data).

2

Despite high jobless numbers, the Austin region still has areas where we need to (re)train more skilled talent

Even in this COVID-economy, recently updated data confirms that the Austin region continues to have a current and projected need for more skilled talent in Community Workforce Plan targeted industries.

  • In a recently completed WFS labor supply analysis, we project we will need more skilled talent in IThealthcare, and skilled trades/manufacturing.
    • Although the manufacturing-related production occupations are projected to be oversupplied in the Austin region, local employers report these occupations will be in greater demand once Tesla begins hiring for their new gigafactory and hiring expands at BAE Systems.
  • Skills gaps: Based on data from January to March 2020, many skills in shortage fall within the skilled trades, except for data analysis, bilingual, and aseptic technique (preventing contamination in healthcare settings).
  • Foundational skill gaps: In 2020, nine of the top 10 in-demand skill clusters (which prepare people to enter the workforce either at an entry-level or during career changes) are IT-related and are projected to rapidly grow nationally and globally.
  • Healthcare- and IT-related skills directly tied to WFS’ targeted occupations list are projected to snowball between 2019-2021 in the region.

The big picture: To prepare Austin for the workforce of the future, the Community Workforce Plan’s focus on high-growth, in-demand career pathways (in IT, healthcare, skilled trades, and manufacturing) continues to provide a vital roadmap to improve the lives of thousands of lower-income Austinites, now and in the years to come.


3

WFS launches digital, interactive workbook for high school and middle school students to explore in-demand careers

WFS is helping middle and high school students prepare for in-demand careers. With the start of virtual school last month, we pivoted our content and materials to help local students see which local jobs are growing and which can earn them higher wages. Introducing our Explore Careers workbooks:

  • Our digital workbooks offer career exploration tools for middle and high school students to learn about career endorsements for high school and career pathways beyond graduation.
  • These workbooks direct students to online career assessments, career videos, soft skills training, resume building, and more, allowing more avenues to connect with our services.
  • The workbooks were used digitally during the spring 2020 school semester. Today, over 9,000 copies have been printed to distribute to students in local school districts.

How you can help:

  • Download our workbooks hereand please share them with your colleagues.
  • Please share climbtheladderctx.comwith those you know who are looking for their next step, whether going into the workforce, community college, an apprenticeship, or more.
  • Please shoot me a message with your feedback on the site or other resources you’d like to see.

Austin Community College slashing tuition for fast-track CE training programs

2 Sep

AUSTIN, Texas — To help Central Texans get back to work, Austin Community College (ACC) is slashing tuition for several programs related to the highest-demand sectors in the area, including health care, IT and skilled trades.

The courses, many of which can be completed in just three months, are part of ACC’s entry-level fast-track programs offered through the college’s Continuing Education Division (CE). Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, ACC is cutting tuition by half.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 23-29, 2020)

29 Aug

3-minute read

Good afternoon,

As I’ve reported here over the past few months, federal funding for our critical job training programs will be cut at the same time unemployment — still more than 2.5x the pre-COVID rate — has rocked our region. Along with many at WFS, I have sounded the alarm about the additional resources needed to help our community connect to training and jobs.

I’m honored to share this good news: In the last two weeks, Austin City Council awarded WFS $1.37M, and Travis Co awarded $1.8M (effective Oct 1 and Sep 1, respectively) to help us rapidly implement our Phase 1 plan to (re)train hundreds of Central Texans for hire at higher wages. Along with gratitude for our Mayor and City Council members, a special thanks to Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, a long-time workforce champion who dug into the details and worked to achieve a unanimous vote at Travis County. We will be able to do a lot of good with these Phase 1 funds — our local leaders’ trust in WFS is truly humbling. 

In the last two weeks, Austin City Council awarded WFS $1.37M, and Travis Co awarded $1.8M to help us rapidly implement our Phase 1 plan to (re)train hundreds of Central Texans for hire at higher wages.

In 2017, we first launched our strategic Community Workforce Plan. To move 10,000 people out of poverty and into good, middle-wage jobs, our community banded together to do what no other Texas Workforce Board had done before. But one of the impediments was sufficient resources. Today, these new contracts are the accelerants poured on our strategic plan, fueling our efforts toward a much more significant impact. Phase 1 funding awarded will help us complete the build-out of the infrastructure. But to fund Phase 2 (designed to yield the training enrollments to accomplish the rising targets in our plan), we need a federal stimulus that includes state/local workforce funds. We will be ready.

WFS is committed to driving our community to reach our collective workforce goals and achieve outcomes. We stand unwavering by our mission for better jobs, better services, and better lives for ALL our neighbors. We connect local people to local jobs.

In partnership, Tamara


1

The lowest-income Austinites don’t qualify for additional $300 per week pandemic stipend

TWC estimates nearly 350,000 (or 20%) of Texas jobless claimants don’t qualify for the federal $300 pandemic stipend because they either earned too little from the work they lost or didn’t indicate on their unemployment claim that they lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

  • Those earning less than $100 a week in unemployment benefits — likely lower-wage or part-time workers — are ineligible for the extra payment, as required by the Presidential Memoranda signed August 8.
    • Others aren’t eligible because they didn’t state when they filed for unemployment benefits that they lost their jobs because of the pandemic. They can qualify by making that adjustment to their filing status.
  • In July, half of the jobless claimants in Travis County earned less than $30,000 while they were working. 73% earned less than $50,000.
  • Yes, and: A recent study places Austin as the least livable city for lower-wage workers — minimum wage workers in Austin need to work 37 hours each week just to cut a rent check.
  • Of note: Texas is one of only three states to begin paying extra unemployment benefits. However, states approved for the unemployment benefit program are issued a grant for just three weeks of benefits.
    • Subsequent weeks would be approved by the Administration on a weekly basis to make sure there are enough funds for other states.
    • Analysts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the $44B the President has tapped for these payments would last only about five weeks before running out.
    • Given these Lost Wages benefits are backdated to August 1, it’s unclear how long these Texas payments can continue.

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

  • Last week, unemployment in Travis Co decreased from 7.5% in June to 6.9% in July, representing 50,485 jobless residents. The overall Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 6.7%, or 81,942 jobless residents.
    • Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g. DUA/PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
    • In July, there were 3,536 total PUA/DUA claims in Travis Co. Between March 1 to July 31 2020, there were 35,470 unique DUA/PUA filers.
  • 19,280 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA from August 1-26, 2020 (-7,739 compared to the same period in 2019)
    • Top hiring occupation groups were in IT (2,580), retail (2,247), management (2,164), office and admin support (2,029), and healthcare (1,357).
  • WFS’ Jobs Now board had more than 2,000 job postings as of Aug. 25, from retail bank tellers to warehouse loaders to cloud-computing engineers.
  • WFS launched 3 healthcare-focused hiring initiatives with Baylor Scott & White Health, St. David’s HealthCare, and Integral Care.
    • Help us spread the word – see our upcoming job fairs and virtual info sessions here.

WFS in the news: Last week, we were honored to help drive the conversationon Austin employment and how we’re helping connect neighbors to training, childcare, and jobs:


2

WFS launches Climb the Ladder CTX for secondary students and adults seeking new careers

In time for the new school year, career-exploring students and adults can now explore high-demand occupations virtually through our new microsite at climbtheladderctx.com.

  • We made it easy to find critical resources from a single landing page, including digital workbooks, videos with industry partners, and more.
    • This microsite is a low-cost, agile way to share our resources with students who are learning virtually and job seekers who can’t visit our career centers as easily for assistance with their job search.
    • Tools for educators and employers will be added soon, with opportunities to engage with students and job seekers through career fairs, teacher externships, and more.
  • This website will plug into our rapid (re)train and (re)hire initiative, helping us better customize our supports and increase avenues to connect with our services for K-12 and adults.
  • Browse Climb the Ladder CTX to learn more about in-demand career pathways in our region and connect with our educators to learn more about the resources available to you.

How you can help:

  • Please share climbtheladderctx.com with those you know who are looking for their next step, whether going into the workforce, community college, an apprenticeship, or more.
  • Please shoot me a message with your feedback on the site or other resources you’d like to see.

What’s next:

  • Website redesign: WFS is redesigning our main website to improve user experience and content delivery. Set to launch early October.
  • Technology hub: We are actively working towards a technology solution to accommodate the thousands of clients who will seek services from us, whether jobs or education.

3

Austin’s child care providers receive cleaning supplies at no cost from Workforce Solutions Capital Area

To help area child care providers maintain safe and clean centers during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Child Care Services team held a cleaning supplies pickup event on August 21-22 at the Travis County Purchasing Warehouse.

  • Ensuring families have access to safe, quality, and affordable child care is an essential part of our work to support parents learning new skill sets to pursue a new career or return to work.
  • Child care providers have experienced dramatic changes in demand and enrollment, putting tremendous strains on their ability to stay in business.
  • 153 providers from all around the Austin metro area signed up.
  • Providers received pallet-sized orders of cleaning supplies — everything from dish soap, sanitizing wipes, gloves, paper towels, and more — at no cost.
  • We sorted and prepared thousands of pounds of supplies ahead of the pickup days—25,277 pounds, to be exact!

What they’re saying:

  • Brianna Hodges for Prodigy Child Development Center, with 83 children in care: “When I heard about this event, I was excited! My prayers have been answered. This is tremendous help. We are excited to do a deep clean and maintain health and safety.”
  • Jeannie Young for Eanes Independent School District, which has two centers with almost 85 children in care: “When we closed in March, we left on spring break and never went back. Now we are reopening, and one of our concerns was, ‘do we have enough supplies to truly operate.’ This is a really wonderful gift to make sure we start our year strong, and we have plenty of supplies to keep us going while we build up our stock.”
  • Read more here, and check out our photo gallery on Facebook.

Austin’s Child Care Providers Receive Cleaning Supplies at No Cost from Workforce Solutions Capital Area

27 Aug
Workforce Solutions staff help load cleaning supplies

To assist Austin’s child care providers with maintaining safe and clean centers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s Child Care Services team held a cleaning supplies pickup event on August 21 and 22 at the Travis County Purchasing Warehouse. One hundred fifty-three providers from all around the Austin metro area signed up.

Providers received pallet-sized orders of cleaning supplies—everything from dish soap, sanitizing wipes, gloves, paper towels and more—at no cost. Our team sorted and prepared thousands of pounds of supplies ahead of the pickup days—25,277 pounds, to be exact!

One of the participating centers was Eanes Independent School District, which has two centers with almost 85 children in care, according to Jeannie Young, Child Development Center Coordinator.

“When we closed in March, we left on spring break and never went back. Now we are reopening and one of our concerns was do we have enough supplies to truly operate,” Jeannie said.

“This is a really wonderful gift to make sure we start our year strong and we have plenty of supplies to keep us going while we build up our stock,” she said.

Brianna Hodges is the Center Director at Prodigy Child Development Center, with 83 children in care. “When I heard about this event, I was excited! My prayers have been answered. This is tremendous help,” she said.

What will get cleaned first? “Everything—toys, walls, I mean it all. It all will be cleaned; we are excited to do a deep clean and maintain health and safety,” Brianna said.

“We are very thankful. Thank you again for helping us out and helping our children maintain safety in such a hard time,” said Brianna.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area is committed to supporting providers in Austin who care for the children of our region’s workforce. By providing care in a safe and nurturing environment, Austin’s child care providers are helping to develop a future workforce that is skilled and productive. Learn more about how we support child care providers on our website.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 15-21, 2020)

22 Aug

2-minute read

Good afternoon,

There was encouraging news in the past month as we welcomed Tesla to the Capital Area, and BAE Systems announced their major expansion of operations. And, Thursday, Governor Abbott said Texas would apply for federal funding that would reinstate, retroactive to August 1, an additional $300 per week pandemic stipend to jobless Texans. While unclear how long funds for the new stipend will last (more details below), Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have suggested they may restart discussions of a federal stimulus. Also, Austin’s July unemployment rate fell on Friday to 6.7%. However, last month’s unemployment is still 2.5x where we were before the pandemic began in February.

The other side: On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing new unemployment claims in the week ending August 15 rose by 135,000 to 1.1 million. Economists had expected the tally to continue to dip. The increase is disconcerting given there’s less incentive to file for unemployment with the expiration at the end of July of the $600 a week pandemic stipend for unemployed workers. Even with the growth in employment seen over the past few monthly jobs reports, many people remain out of work, and many businesses continue to shed jobs.

Austin’s July unemployment rate fell on Friday to 6.7%. However, last month’s unemployment is still 2.5x where we were before the pandemic began in February.

The bright side: Two weeks ago, led by Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, with the support of Mayor Adler, Council Members Alter, Casar, Tovo, Flannigan and each member of Austin City Council – Phase 1 of Workforce Solutions’ rapid retraining plan was placed into their draft FY21 budget. Beginning October 1, this will allow Workforce Solutions to rapidly integrate our training, childcare, transportation, digital inclusion, and other providers and build out a pilot system to initially help 130 of our jobless friends and neighbors rapidly train and move into higher-paying occupations for 2021. But to fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

Below, you’ll find the latest unemployment data for Texas and quickly catch up on policy changes and reemployment funding outlook. Please let me know if you have any questions. In partnership, Tamara

In partnership, Tamara


1

Austin unemployment rate continues to fall, while the job market buckles, as unemployment reaches 6.7% in July 2020

According to the latest figures released by TWC on 8/21, the unemployment rate for Texas (8.2%) is below the national unemployment rate (10.5%).

  • June unemployment in the Capital Area/Travis Co decreased from 7.5% in June to 6.9% in July, representing 50,485 jobless residents.
  • The overall June Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 6.7%, or 81,942 jobless residents.
  • Of note: Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g. PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
  • Read more in our Newsroom.

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

Non-traditional claimants typically ineligible for unemployment benefits are represented in the below data.

  • New unemployment claims have decreased compared to earlier months in the pandemic, with 9,245 approved claims in July 2020.
    • The new filings decreased by the week, from 3,008 the week of July 5 to 1,516 the week of July 28.
  • were posted in Austin MSA in July 2020 (-740 from June 2020)
  • were posted in Austin MSA from August 1-13, 2020 (-3,564 compared to the same period in 2019)
  • when comparing the last week of June with the second week of August.
  • 5 workforce boards (Capital Area, Rural Capital, Alamo, Central Texas, and Heart of Texas) are banding together to host Hiring Red, White & You: Warrior Welcome Central Texas, the largest virtual hiring experience for veterans in the state.
  • Our published report features employment data from July 1-31 by occupation and demographic for Capital Area/Travis Co.

2

Catch up quick: COVID-19 workforce policy and funding changes

Here’s the latest scheduled effective dates and why they matter:

Unemployment benefits policy: WFS continues to monitor how these rapid policy changes affect the number of unemployed workers seeking our job matching and training services.

  • On Thursday, Gov. Abbott said Texas would apply for federal funding to provide the additional $300 per week pandemic stipend for people who have lost their jobs. The Texas Governor did not indicate that the state intended to boost the payment with an additional $100 per week.
    • The $300 enhanced benefit stems from an Executive Memorandum that President Donald Trump signed August 8. State governments are asked, but not required, to contribute $100 to the total.
    • The measure limits eligible recipients to those receiving at least $100 a week in state benefits. Those excluded would disproportionately be lower-wage, part-time workers.
    • States should be able to begin delivering the payments after applying for funding with FEMA and making technical changes to systems to distribute the money. The Labor Department estimates it will take states an average of three weeks to send out the money. Though there are many variables still at plan, TWC is hoping pandemic checks can go out to Texans as soon as next week.
    • Based on the current number of unemployment benefit recipients, a Labor Department official said the $44 billion in funds allocated for the enhanced benefits could be spent as soon as in five or six weeks, if all states participate.
  • Since July 25, when the $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) expired, no pandemic stipends have been issued for the current 50,485 jobless in Travis County.
  • Amid a current four-fold increase in demand for reemployment services, the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) program — one of Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s most prominent federal funding sources — is scheduled to be reduced by 15% on October 1, 2020, in about one month.
    • The WIOA employment program, offered at no cost for participants, is designed to give job seekers personalized support and training needed to find a job.
    • Funding, determined by Congressional formulas, will be cut 15.1 percent for the 2021 fiscal year.  

Child care policy: We continue to respond to a high call volume from parents who need our child care services, and we continue to help ensure providers can stay open to serve children, safely.

  • On Thursday, TWC approved $106.4M to assist workforce boards and child care providers in addressing higher child care costs resulting from COVID-19. This includes the continuation of the 25% Enhanced Reimbursement Rate through December 2020 and funding full day care for children in school districts that have not started school yet or are 100% virtual right now.
    • Enhanced Reimbursement Rate payments are an incentive TWC began in March to encourage providers to stay open and address increased operational costs to serve essential workers.
    • WFS currently has 3,239 children in care, and 147 children enrolled in essential worker care. We continue to evaluate continued eligibility through our locally funded Continuity of Care program.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 10-14, 2020)

14 Aug

2-minute read

Good afternoon,

The big news is there’s unfortunately no news yet from Washington or the Capitol on reinstituting some form of pandemic stipend. Last Saturday, the President signed a Presidential Memoranda that would reinstate federal pandemic stipends, though at $400 per week, and no later than December 6. The catch (if no legal issues were raised) was that state governors would need to request the benefit and contribute 25% of the money. Two days ago, the US Dept of Labor advised that states are now not required to make the 25% payment. But the $400 per week stipend would be lowered to no higher than $300 per week and for an undetermined interval. Governor Abbott and the Texas Workforce Commission have been communicating with Vice President Pence and the Administration but have not taken action. As a result, no pandemic stipends since July 25 for the 65,000 jobless in Travis County. 

However, on Thursday, led by Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, with the support of Mayor Adler, Council Members Alter, Casar, Tovo, Flannigan and each member of Austin City Council – Phase 1 of Workforce Solutions’ rapid retraining plan was placed into their draft FY21 budget. This will allow Workforce Solutions to rapidly integrate our training, childcare, transportation, digital inclusion, and other providers and build out a pilot system to help one hundred of our jobless friends and neighbors rapidly train and move into higher-paying occupations for 2021. But to fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

Led by Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, with the support of Mayor Adler, Council Members Alter, Casar, Tovo, Flannigan and each member of Austin City Council – Phase 1 of Workforce Solutions’ rapid retraining plan was placed into their draft FY21 budget.

Finally, as you all likely saw, we at Workforce Solutions are pleased to welcome BAE Systems’ announcement of a major expansion of operations and the plans to hire 700. These are great jobs, and we are eager to help them find great people to power their company’s growth. In leadership, we all live in the gray areas. At least locally, those grays around helping the jobless have sharpened a bit due to Austin City Council and (potentially) Travis County support for Phase 1 of our rapid retraining plan.

Below: As workers nationwide are struggling to find jobs — now with significantly reduced income — see how WFS leverages employer partnerships to develop talent pipelines and career pathways in in-demand industries like tech and skilled trades.

In partnership, Tamara


1

How Austin can prepare its tech workforce to sustain the needs of the economy

The Austin region needs a larger, more diverse tech talent pool to sustain the long-term growth prospects of this key industry. To address this challenge, WFS and Austin’s tech talent employers are coming together with the talent development partners to align and “right-size” the tech talent pipeline.

  • In a new report from WFS and the Austin Technology Council, prepared by Alexander Research & Consulting:
    • In 2019, Austin MSA had 65,000 IT jobs, representing almost 6% of the workforce.
    • While the short-term outlook for IT in the region is highly variable, the long-term outlook for IT job growth is strongly positive.
    • The region needs a larger tech talent pool to sustain the long-term growth prospects of this key economic driver and ensure our people can access good, locally-created IT jobs.
    • Employers desire a more diverse talent pool. Currently, 77% of tech workers in the Austin region are male. 64% are white.
    • To address this challenge, WFS andAustin’s employers of tech talent will come together with the region’s talent development partners to align and “right-size” the tech talent pipeline in the new Capital Area Technology Workforce Coalition (CATWC).
    • WFS closed an application round earlier this week to choose an IT consultant to support the CATWC.
  • Last week, WFS joined leaders from Austin Technology Council, TWC, and the City of Austin to get input from all sectors of the Central Texas economy to help shape the local tech talent pool to sustain the Austin tech ecosystem’s growth.
    • Read the IT Labor Market Study to explore employer demand for IT workers and contours of a plan to improve talent alignment.

How you can help:

  • We call Austin tech employers to reevaluate their minimum hiring requirements, just as other tech companies are considering alternatives to the traditional four-year degree.
  • We need direct employer input and participation in the partnership to push this work forward. Shoot me a message if interested.

2

‘I have had a lot of hardships in my life and this was my big break’: Abigail Leighton is learning how strong she is in Austin’s skilled trades

Before enrolling in the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) training program in July to enter the trades, Abigail worked in the foodservice industry but realized her opportunities were limited. She sought work that would pay well and help build a productive life.

  • MC3 is a nationally recognized industry certificate that introduces students to the different building trades and teaches them the skills needed for a registered apprenticeship, debt-free.
  • All graduates are offered employment on graduation day as an electrician’s helper, plumber/pipefitter, laborer, sheet metal worker, fire sprinkler installer, insulator, or carpenter.
  • Ten out of 12 graduates in Abigail’s cohort were under the age of 34. Four were Class of 2020 high school grads.
  • On average, program trainees can earn up to $15/hour during their first year as an apprentice and up to $70,000/year after completing a program, which takes two weeks and is free.  

What they’re saying:

  • Abigail Leighton: “I have a new long-term goal and that is to show other women that they can do this too. Skilled trades may currently be a male-dominated industry, but it doesn’t have to be. Women make wonderful tradespeople and have so much to offer to this industry.”
  • Marc Pendleton, Organizational Development Specialist for Local 520:“We encourage women to be electricians because they have great attention to detail. I learned the tricks of the trade 14 years ago from a great Journeywoman.”
  • Read more about Abigail’s story here.

3

‘Now I can definitely provide a future for my daughter’: Kelly Thomas is providing a future for her daughter with help from WFS’ childcare services

Learning a new skill set to pursue a new career takes time and resources. For parents with young children who want to take this path, available and affordable childcare is essential.

  • Kelly Thomas, who has lived in Austin since 2001, has completed cosmetology training this month and is now weighing her career options. She can now do so, having received support with childcare.
  • Kelly’s parent navigator at AnyBabyCan there told her about WFS’ childcare tuition scholarships, which gave her the flexibility needed to enroll in her 1,500-hour cosmetology program at the end of 2019.
  • WFS currently has 3,239 children in care, and 417 children enrolled in essential worker care as we continue care for eligible children.

What they’re saying:

  • “There was no way I could have finished my program without this help,” said Kelly. “I have had a lot of hardships in my life and this was my big break. Now I can definitely provide a future for my daughter.”
  • Read more about Kelly’s story here.  

What’s next: WFS is hosting the 2020 Child Care Symposium on September 18-19, incorporating our annual symposiums for child care directors and teachers into a single virtual event.

  • Last year, we hosted over 600 for the Teachers Symposium and 250 for the Directors Symposium. This year, we expect to reach even more with our pivot to virtual.
  • 33 free sessions are available on accessibility, equity, and operational effectiveness.
  • You can register for the sessions on Eventbrite. Please share with your constituents.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 3-9, 2020)

9 Aug

2-minute read

Good afternoon,

While there are many details to surface, yesterday, the President signed a Presidential Memoranda that would restart pandemic stipends up to $400/week. The federal government would redirect $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. State governments are asked to provide one-quarter of that sum from their unexpended CARES Act funds.

What it means to Travis Co: Travis Co had roughly 65,000 jobless receiving the $600/week pandemic stipend — over and above their Texas unemployment benefit — until it expired on July 25. If the President’s action survives potential legal challenges, money will again support Travis Co jobless residents, half of whom earn less than $30,000/year. The language in the memoranda suggests a Governor must request the aid from FEMA and agree to provide one-quarter of the total payment. It is not immediately clear when payments will actually restart, though the Memoranda says they can start as of the week ending August 1. Calculations are forthcoming on how long those payments will be sustained, though the Memoranda says the lost wage payments end no later than December 6. With a soft economy and unemployment 3x the February level, this $400/week payment will help Travis Co residents.

Travis Co had roughly 65,000 jobless receiving the $600/week pandemic stipend — over and above their Texas unemployment benefit — until it expired on July 25.

Below, take a closer look at the 55,643 June unemployed residents in Travis Co, a historical low employment rate for lower-income Austinites, and a July job posting trend analysis (showing a downturn since the end of June).

In partnership, Tamara


1

Who are Travis Co’s unemployed? A closer look at the 55,643 June unemployed residents by ethnicity, age, education, and previous occupation

The unemployed are disproportionately persons of color, younger, and have a high school diploma or GED. Below is a preliminary analysis of raw June unemployment data. We’ll bring you more findings of key changes in jobless demographics comparing more recent months.

Ethnicity: Black and Hispanic Travis Co residents are most disproportionately impacted by unemployment.

  • Black residents make up 12.8% of the June unemployed compared to 7.8% in the working-age population, according to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights.
    • In June 2020, 16% of all jobless claimants in Travis Co were black. These claimants include those not typically qualified for regular unemployment insurance like self‐employed, gig, and contract workers.
  • Hispanic residents make up 35.7% of the June unemployed while representing 31.4% of the local labor force.

Age: Over half of the June unemployed in Travis Co are between the ages of 16-34.

  • Residents ages 16-24 and 25-34 make up 26.1% and 25.2% of the June unemployed, respectively.
  • Of note: From March-June 2020, most jobless claimants are between the ages of 25-34 (34%). 
    • The second most are ages 35-44 (28%), and the third most is 16-24 (19%).

Education: Travis Co residents with less education than an associate’s degree are most disproportionately impacted by unemployment.

  • Unemployed residents with a high school diploma or GED (21.4%) are disproportionately affected compared to the labor force with this education level (16.9%).
  • Those with some college or an associate’s degree comprise nearly 30% of the June unemployed, near equal to the share of individuals with these educational levels in the labor force.
  • Unemployed residents with a bachelor’s degree (22.6%)comprise a smaller percentage than the total workforce with a bachelor’s degree (31.1%).
  • Of note: From March-June 2020, most jobless claimants have a high school diploma or GED (34%).
    • The second most had some college (24%), and third most hold an associate’s (23%).

Previous occupations: One in four June unemployed Travis Co residents across all sectors were previously in food service, retail, and personal care occupations (23%).

  • 16.6% were previously in skilled trades & manufacturing occupations.
  • 2.6% were previously in healthcare occupations.
  • 2% were previously in IT occupations.
  • Travis Co industries with the most June unemployment are Unknown (9,796); Retail Trade (6,236); Professional, Scientific, and Tech (5,563); and Accommodation and Food Services (5,275).

2

Lower-income workers in Austin MSA have a historically low rate of employment compared to pre-COVID, down 36.9% as of May 31, 2020

COVID’s impact has hit lower-income Austinites exceptionally hard, with the rate of lower-income employment down 36.9% as of May 31, 2020, compared to January 2020. The employment rate indicates a decrease in lower-income workers active in the workforce.

  • 50% of all Travis Co jobless claimants previously earned less than $30,000, and 78% previously earned less than $50,000, according to WFS data.
  • With high levels of unemployment and relatively few job openings, a cut in take-home pay began two weeks ago for Austin’s jobless claimants with the expiration of the $600 unemployment stipend.
  • Without a law to continue the stipend, the demand for WFS services— job matching and training support — is expected to surge.

Yes, but: WFS is working with a number of elected officialson rapid approaches the Austin region can take to help its lower-income population use this “downtime” to plug into an effective training ecosystem, receive guidance, rapid training, and job placement to ensure 2021 is much better financially.


3

Following enhanced safety orders, new job postings in Austin MSA fall 23% from the last week of June to the final week of July

According to Opportunity Insight, there was a 23.5% decline in new job postings comparing the week ending June 26 and the week ending July 31. The state of Texas experienced a 12.6% decline in new job ads when comparing the same weekly periods.

  • Job posting trends in Austin MSA across sectors began a decline at the beginning of July with heightened public safety orders brought on by the rise of new COVID-19 cases. 
    • This recent decline is in contrast to the surge in job postings as restrictions eased from May through June.
    • Comparing the last week of May 2020 and the final week of June,there was a 23.6% uptick in new job ads in Austin MSA. This increase was a continuation of an upward trend that began early May as food, retail, and hospitality industry jobs began to open.
  • The Leisure and Hospitality sector was the most impacted in July 2020, with a 32.8% decline in new job ads comparing the last week of June 2020 to the final week of July.
    • We continue to monitor how the rise in cases and enhanced safety restrictions continue to affect this hard-hit industry.
  • The Manufacturing sector showed the most resiliency with only a 3% decline in new job ads comparing the last week of June to the final week of July.
  • Healthcare job postings fell 4.1% when comparing the same periods, as hospitals hire contact tracers and health screeners at building entrances. 
  • Compared to a year ago, July 2020 had 8,398 more new job postings (24,774). However, this increase is largely from businesses filling positions lost during the pandemic.
  • The top occupation groups that companies across all sectors were hiring for in July 2020 were in IT (3,735), retail (2,874), and management (2,764).

Abigail Leighton is Learning How Strong She is in Austin’s Skilled Trades

6 Aug
Abigail Leighton

Ever since childhood, Abigail Leighton has always enjoyed building things and working with her hands. This interest is what led Abigail, who has called Austin home since 2002, to the skilled trades and a budding career as an electrician.

Before entering the trades, Abigail worked in the food service industry but realized her opportunities were limited. She sought work that would pay well and help build a productive life.

“I needed to find a career path that would earn me a respectable, livable income without taking out massive student loans,” Abigail said. “I searched online for jobs that make lots of money without a college degree. Several trade jobs appeared in my search and I knew that was what I needed to do in order to improve my life and stop living paycheck to paycheck.”

Abigail called Brian Peabody, the training coordinator at Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 286, to ask about applying for an apprenticeship. “I explained why I wanted to join a local union and he told me I should take the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum class to help me along,” said Abigail.

Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) is a nationally recognized, industry certificate that introduces students to the different building trades and teaches them the skills necessary to successfully apply for a registered apprenticeship, debt-free. MC3 is a standardized, comprehensive, 120-hour construction course designed to help young people and transitioning adults choose and succeed in apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades that are appropriate for them.

Abigail enrolled in the two-week program and took her training in July 2020. The students received their OSHA-10 certification, First Aid/CPR training, learned to read blueprints and, best of all, got jobs upon graduation.

“I think my true passion may actually be with the union itself. Trade jobs have given me a lot of confidence and useful skills. Local unions are something very special and I believe they have the ability to continue empowering women like myself.”

“I think the program is really special and gives people a good look into the trades, and what it means to be part of a union. I only wish they had the classes more often so I could start sending people I know to take it. Brian Peabody has really put a lot of time and effort into teaching MC3 and it is such a valuable experience,” Abigail said.

Meeting the people who work in all the local unions was an experience Abigail enjoyed. “It was such a unique experience to observe their jobs and see the passion for what they do. The program is run by good people who care about the success of others and it shows,” she said.

“I had a very skewed idea of what most tradespeople were like. I always assumed people were plumbers, or electricians, or ironworkers because their dads were—that they grew up learning to fix things and that they have always known how to use tools or work with their hands. That couldn’t be further from the truth! I was very tool illiterate when I first started my journey in this industry, and now I use power tools every day and own my own angle grinder,” said Abigail.

Abigail began working with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 520 on July 20.

“I was sold on being a plumber at first but then we took a tour of the electrician’s training facility and it started changing my mind. I thought the work they did looked very interesting and I kept finding myself considering it more and more at home after class,” she said.

“We did mock job interviews and Marc Pendleton from Local 520 was there. He was such a delight to sit down with and I really enjoyed our interview. The health benefits and retirement options with 520 were some of the best, and they have a picnic committee. What’s not to love?” Abigail said.

While her journey as a union apprentice has just begun, Abigail already knows her future lies in the trades.

“I want other women who felt like me to know that this is attainable and the union is there to help and support you along the way.”

“My short-term goal is to finish the five-year apprenticeship and become a journeyman—or journeywoman, if you will! After that, I may pursue a masters license to start my own business and employ other union members,” said Abigail.

“I think my true passion may actually be with the union itself. Trade jobs have given me a lot of confidence and useful skills. Local unions are something very special and I believe they have the ability to continue empowering women like myself,” she said.

“I have a new long-term goal and that is to show other women that they can do this too. Skilled trades may currently be a male-dominated industry, but it doesn’t have to be. Women make wonderful tradespeople and have so much to offer to this industry. The only thing holding women back from learning a trade is themselves,” said Abigail.

Abigail Leighton and Marc Pendleton

Marc Pendleton, Organizational Development Specialist for Local 520, agreed: “We encourage women to be electricians because they have great attention to detail. I learned the tricks of the trade 14 years ago from a great Journeywoman,” Marc said.

“We can think we aren’t tough enough, or strong enough, or knowledgeable enough—but that just isn’t true. I want other women who felt like me to know that this is attainable and the union is there to help and support you along the way.”

She added, “If you are willing to work hard and learn new things, the union and other tradespeople will teach you everything you need to know. Get ready to sweat and buy some nice gel insoles for your boots! Other than that, a good attitude is all you will need.”

Job training and the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum
Interested in pursuing a career with a union-based apprenticeship program? To learn more about trainings like MC3, go to the North America’s Building Trades Unions website.

Connect with Hiring Employers Virtually–and do it with a Soundtrack!

5 Aug

Austin’s venues are closed for the time being, so to help Austin’s performers to earn income in the meantime, we partnered with Austin Texas Musicians (ATXM) to host a virtual job fair on Thursday, August 6 from 10 am to 4 pm. You can register to attend here.

Now Austin’s gig workers and other job seekers can explore work opportunities around the Austin metro area, including work-from-home positions–and the best part? They can do it with a soundtrack!

Four ATXM members will perform live during the day, providing a real Austin touch to this event. Check out the lineup:

Scott Strickland

10:30 am: Scott Strickland
With a sound some have described as “Paul Simon dancing in MC Hammer pants” and “the 3 AM jam session of Dave Matthews and Bill Withers”, the Scott Strickland Band forges ahead on a new path; a sound unheard in today’s musical lexicon. It is a sound mature and textured, yet playfully improvised enough to have the listener intently wonder where the work is going next.

Lex Land

12:00 pm: Lex Land
Lex Land is an American singer-songwriter and jazz vocalist from Los Angeles, currently residing in Austin, Texas. She was a contestant on the second season of NBC’s singing competition The Voice. Land also fronts three other projects: Moorhaunter, One Big Dark Room, and The Kremer Land Swing Band. Intelligent Noise Records released her first two albums, Orange Days on Lemon Street in 2008, and Were My Sweetheart to Go… in 2011. Both albums had songs featured on television programs.

Sonya Jevette

12:00 pm: Sonya Jevette
The words sultry, cool, and eccentric best describe the singer, songwriter, and musician Sonya Jevette. She was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Sonya Jevette grew up singing to the great R&B tunes that dominated the airwaves in the seventies. As a teen she honed her vocal talent through the church choir. Winning a talent contest at the age of seventeen was the beginning of Sonya Jevette’s journey. From there, she went on to win dozens of competitions. These successes translated into media attention from radio & newspaper with appearances at over 100 festivals.

Dave Madden

3:00 pm: Dave Madden
Dave Madden was voted Best Music Arranger at the AMP Austin Music Industry Awards, and Top 10 Best Keyboardists as voted by the Austin Chronicle’s Music Poll. Dave is a member of the Recording Academy and a voting member for the Grammy’s.

Madden is the rare combination of accomplished songwriter and masterful multi-instrumentalist. His peers consider him a “musician’s musician”. He is an alum of the illustrious TED organization, having performed and presented a striking dissertation on music theory at TEDxNapaValley in 2015.

Dave equally enjoys creating his own music and collaborating with others. He has been hired to perform with a diverse range of world-class artists, from reggae-pop favorite Michael Franti to legendary rock icon Steve Miller, from platinum-selling band Fastball to Mark Mothersbaugh, co-founder of Devo.

Welcoming Tesla into the employment ecosystem in Central Texas

4 Aug

Tesla announced on July 22 that the company will build a $1.1 billion assembly plant—or Gigafactory—in Travis County, according to a news release from Gov. Greg Abbott

The factory – to be built on 2,100 acres off Texas 130 and Harold Green Road in southeastern Travis County – will employ 5,000 people with wages starting at $35,000 annually. Workforce Solutions Capital Area was proud to be asked to testify in favor of Tesla’s decision before our partners at the Travis County Commissioners Court two times, and once with the Del Valle Independent School District Board of Trustees. 

After a strong month of job recovery in June, we look forward to new opportunities to help connect Travis County’s 55,000 unemployed workers to agile, rapid job training and supports — such as childcare, transportation, and employment services — in preparation for these roughly 5,000 job opportunities.

Here’s what our leadership is saying about Tesla:

Melanie Flowers, Board Chair, Workforce Solutions Capital Area: “On behalf of Workforce Solutions Capital Area Board of Directors, we heartily welcome Tesla into the regional employment ecosystem in Central Texas. We are currently experiencing significant unemployment due to the global pandemic, with more than 80,000 Central Texans out of work. Tesla will diversify the regional economic base and provide strong career opportunities and ladders for residents in a growing industry. Workforce Solutions Capital Area is excited to partner with Tesla to support and connect local people for local jobs.”

Tamara Atkinson, CEO, Workforce Solutions Capital Area: “For generations, hard-working, hard dreaming Central Texans have made this a great place to create a career, raise a family and support one another. In these tough economic times, Central Texans are excited to be able to welcome an iconic American business success story to our community to work with us to write its next, successful chapter.”