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.

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