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


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.


‘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.


‘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.

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