Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (September 26-October 4, 2020)

4 Oct

3-minute read

Good afternoon friends. Join me in wishing a speedy recovery to our President and First Lady.

It was an honor to be joined Wednesday by a star-studded lineup of state/local government, industry, and education leaders at “The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic,” sponsored by Texas Mutual. Over 250 live attendees got a look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Central Texans prepare for the present and the immediate future (watch here ICYMI). I can’t say thank you enough to our fantastic speakers and supporters: Gov. Greg Abbott; Sen. Sarah Eckhardt; TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel and Commissioner Aaron Demerson; Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe; Mayor Steve Adler; ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes; Texas Mutual President & CEO Rich Gergasko; and WFS Board members including Board Chair Melanie Flowers, Vice-Chair Mark Sherry, Phil Walker, and Thomas Miranda.

Where we are, nearly seven months into the pandemic: Austin (re)employment hasmade dramatic progress in the last few months of the crisis. However, unemployment and jobless claims are still much worse than pre-COVID levels. The boost that government support was providing to the incomes of many Americans has begun to fade. Substantial as the job market rebound has been, it isn’t recovering fast enough to bail out the 70,000 Central Texans out of a job due to the pandemic. But Austin is better prepared than many in our country. Our community was the first to have a strategic plan to guide our workforce development efforts even before this pandemic. And now, we’ve laid out how we can help jobless residents in slow-to-recover sectors receive rapid training and support to transition to those local, growing sectors – like health care, IT, and skilled trades/manufacturing.  

Through it all, we provided a person, a plan, and hope that together we would get through. Rest assured that no matter what, we will continue to connect local people to local jobs.

What could change soon: On Thursday, the House narrowly passed a $2.2T stimulus plan that contained another round of direct one-time payments to individuals, $600 per week federal unemployment benefits, and small business aid. However, the legislation seems to have unclear prospects for final passage. Bipartisan talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to continue. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to afford food and rent. Without further aid to help stabilize family budgets and inject consumer spending into the economy, experts say the threat of another wave of layoffs or furloughs looms, as businesses struggle to adjust to lower demand and grapple with revenue losses. It takes compromise from the House, Senate, and White House. We are hopeful they will come together with plans that can help those in need 1) support themselves and 2) get skills for employment in growing sectors of the economy.

Looking ahead: Throughout this pandemic, Workforce Solutions Capital Area continues to connect local people to local jobs. That hasn’t changed. This is the time when our community needs WFS to serve as the hub for bringing educators and training providers, job seekers, and employers together to strengthen our region’s employment ecosystem. Since March, we have provided critical layoff aversion information and tips to dozens of businesses facing uncertain and frightening times. We answered and responded to over 40,000 phone calls and emails from impacted workers. Since June, we re-opened in person to the public and have never stopped serving our community through virtual services. Through it all, we provided a person, a plan, and hope that together we would get through. Rest assured that no matter what, we will continue to connect local people to local jobs. 

In partnership, Tamara 


1

Rapid retraining, upskilling, and more workforce investment is the best ‘Plan Ahead’ for the Austin community, region, and state

On Wednesday, workforce development, economic development, and education leaders gathered for Austin’s annual Community Workforce Plan event,“The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic.”

  • Over 250 live attendees learned about our community’s progress and commitment through Year 2 to lift Austin metro area residents out of poverty.

The headlines:

  • Before COVID, the Community Workforce Plan improved lives through career training, increased job placement, and increased wage increases.
  • Income data shows we have made substantial progress in aligning the disparate pieces of our workforce system.
  • Our goal remains the same: to move 10,000 Austinites out of poverty.
    • We will continue to check our compass and course-correct as we continue on this path.
    • Check out our CWP Year 2 Impact Reportfor the latest measurable performance highlights.
  • Since March, Austin has been digging out of its hole as fewer and fewer Austinites are newly out of a job.
  • But, but, but: It’s also clear that some furloughs, which started as temporary, are now becoming permanent.

So, what’s the ‘plan ahead’?

  • In the post-COVID workforce environment, skills are at a premium. It’s clear to us that you earn what you learn.
  • Yes, but: Many employers in our region struggle to fill critical positions that are middle-skill. These require more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree, such as an industry-recognized certificate.
    • Many residents here may have the experience or specific skills to qualify for these kinds of jobs but lack the credentials to apply.
  • This month, WFS is launching Make It Now, a rapid reskilling initiativewith our education partners.
    • Our renewed focus is on safety, speed, and sufficient supports to provide pathways out of poverty for workers in our community who lost jobs because of the pandemic.
  • Funding will be laser-focused on training that is both fast and offers good wages immediately upon graduation.
    • Thanks to the generosity of the City of Austin and Travis County, the first phase of Make It Now will serve at least 260 low-income individuals who are unemployed due to COVID-19.
    • In addition to the individuals who receive job training and employment through Make It Now, WFS is developing a technology platform with the capacity to connect thousands more to local resources and a better future.

Yes, but: It will take more to scale the plan to reach enough of the thousands of additional local people who have lost jobs amid the pandemic.

  • To fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

What they’re saying:

  • Governor Greg Abbott: “Thank you to Workforce Solutions Capital Area for your work to connect Texans in Travis County with training and job opportunities during these difficult times… Working together, we will continue to attract even more investment, more jobs in the Austin area, and we will expand economic opportunity for every Texan.”
  • Senator Sarah Eckhardt: “As federal dollars flow through the Texas Workforce Commission and down to the local workforce boards, I just got to hand it to the locals for STEPPING UP and bringing it, making sure we don’t stop on the federal baseline of unemployment insurance, childcare, and basic workforce skills development. We go the distance on finding employers that will reach out and grab that local talent; will provide apprenticeships; will do the upskilling.”
  • TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel: “This [Make It Now] partnership with Dr. Rhodes at Austin Community College is a great model of how to effectively respond with expedited virtual skills training.”
  • TWC Commissioner Aaron Demerson: “By advancing and training our current workforce, we can fill our high demand, hard to fill roles, increase retention, and open up entry-level opportunities faster for the 50,000 unemployed that we have here in Travis County.”
  • Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe: “Travis County has provided the initial funding out of our CARES Act dollars. We were attracted to the commitment from Workforce Solutions to move at the speed of the need.”
  • City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler: “Helping families earn money through good jobs is a shared responsibility that we all have.”

How you can help:

  • Spread the word about skills training, especially for those out of work.
  • Hire from local education programs. 
  • Grow your talent from within. Invest in skills training, and know that WFS is here to help.
  • If you’re interested in learning more, let’s connect. Feel free to reply to this email.

▶️ Catch the full event and all speakers on YouTube.   


2

Workforce Solutions Capital Area recognizes companies that have invested in their employees’ professional development in inaugural Upskilling HEROES Awards

For building a higher-skilled workforce and a more competitive economy, Workforce Solutions Capital Area awarded five Austin area businesses as the first Upskilling HEROES of Central Texas.

  • This year’s awardees are American Youthworks, Arrive Logistics, Ascension Seton, Austin Western Railroad — Watco Companies, and Patient’s Premier Choice.

Why upskilling matters: With the impacts of COVID-19, many companies are dealing with layoffs and closures. Upskilling provides a pathway for long-term economic growth for individuals, industry, and the region.

  • Through the challenges of the pandemic, these five companies stepped up to maintain and enhance their workforce with upskilling strategies.

The big picture: The five companies’ decision to invest in upgrading the skills of their local workforce addresses critical hiring needs and skill gaps and creates a steady pipeline of pre-vetted talent.

  • They are collectively working to advance145 employees’ skills and invest over $400,000 to upskill their workforce.
  • This work directly contributes to the Austin Metro Area Community Workforce Plan. 

How you can help:

  • ▶️ Watch our 2020 Upskilling HEROES video to see why upskilling is vital to each company.  
  • Visit our event website to get started with upskilling, get direct assistance, and access our event resources, or shoot me an email of interest.

One Response to “Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (September 26-October 4, 2020)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (October 5-9, 2020) | Working in Austin - October 11, 2020

    […] County for their swift response to our workforce crisis, recently funding the first phase of “Make It Now,” which will rapidly retrain at least 260 low-income Austinites who are unemployed due to […]

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