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.

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