Austin Students Can Explore Careers and Successful Futures at Youth Career Fest

23 Jan


For middle school and high school students in Austin, January means more than just going back to school—it means exploring future career opportunities with many local employers at the annual Youth Career Fest event.

This year, Youth Career Fest will be held on Wednesday, January 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center. Students in grades 8 through 12 will explore new career fields, learn the required steps to entering different industries, and engage with career and higher education representatives.

In 2014, Austin Youth Council created this event to help their high school peers find the answers to their questions about transitioning to the workforce or to higher education. The number of participating employers has grown each year since then—in 2018, more than 140 local employers and higher education representatives attended.

If you would like to learn more about Youth Career Fest, contact Lexi Demos at or Dr. Chiquita Eugene at

Will you be attending Youth Career Fest? What do you hope to learn about at this year’s event? Tell us in a comment below!

Employers Can Find the Skilled Workforce They Need with the On-the-Job Training Program

15 Jan

logo - mps

Austin’s economy continues to grow, with a record low unemployment rate. For local employers, this can make hiring and retaining workers a challenge. Fortunately, solutions exist to expedite the hiring process, such as the On-the-Job Training program (OJT) offered by Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

Participating employers sign a training agreement with Workforce Solutions Capital Area and hire eligible OJT candidates. Participating employers may receive a 50 percent reimbursement on a 40-hour work week for full-time employment opportunities for three months.

One employer that has found success and satisfaction with the OJT program is Mechanical and Process Systems LLC (MPS). MPS is a construction contractor specializing in piping systems, HVAC installation, industrial process systems, plumbing, ductwork and more. MPS was founded in 2003 and today employs 33 people.

MPS is a State of Texas Certified Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) vendor, and a City of Austin Certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) vendor, indicating their commitment to employing and training underrepresented populations.

In May 2018, the company, which is a member of Plumber & Pipefitters Local Union 286, began participating in the On-the-Job Training (OJT) program with Workforce Solutions. Mark Mapes, Plumbing Superintendent at MPS, attended the union’s May 2018 pre-apprenticeship class and met the graduates. At the pre-apprenticeship class, Joe Cooper, the training director at the union and a member of Workforce Solutions’ Board of Directors, introduced MPS to Workforce Solutions’ staff. MPS decided to enter the OJT program and in June 2018 hired four of the graduates from the class.

Catherine Mendez, Office Manager at MPS, helps coordinate the company’s involvement in the program, and found it to be a positive experience for workers, as well as an enlightening one.

“I think it is a good way for younger people to see there is more here than just graduating high school and going into tech,” she said. “There is still demand for skilled trades, and I am a firm believer that getting these people to work is a good idea.”

Mark said, “I was impressed by the resources Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers for these young workers. They can receive assistance for gas and tools, and that really helps them out in the long run by having the necessary tools to do their jobs well.”


“MPS clearly understands the value of apprenticeship models and other training programs such as OJT to build a region’s workforce,” said Lee Pendleton, Business Solutions Manager at Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

“Our new workers have never worked in the construction industry before, but they are catching on quickly,” said Mark. “They are more than willing to learn all they can. They have goals to work to support their families, so their minds are in the right place to move forward.”

Michele Tamo-Wafo, one of the four candidates, has found the experience a beneficial one. “I’ve been looking for a job that could guarantee me a better future, and this experience has been great and benefitable. The professional skills I’m learning are perfect,” he said.

“What I enjoy the most is learning hands-on in the field.” Michele said. “People looking for work opportunities should join one of Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s programs, because they have a lot of opportunity.”

Employers can find many benefits by participating in the OJT program, such as reducing the costs related to hiring, according to Mark.img_3901

“I think it is a good deal because the employer can hire younger people that may not necessarily know if they want to be in this trade and evaluate the employee before committing fully,” Mark said. “It good to have another resource to help with wages, and the additional resources from Workforce Solutions Capital Area are an incentive for employers to participate.”

Catherine said, “I’d like to add the paperwork on my end is easy, and I am very thankful for that.”

Workers can also benefit by receiving an opportunity to experience a new occupation without committing to something they may want to leave later.

“This gives the employees a chance to learn a trade and to actually decide if they want to be in the trade without committing and later giving up,” said Mark.

“Workers receive guidance and help, and employers receive resources for hiring. It’s a win-win situation,” said Catherine.

Today, the four hires are working in plumbing and pipefitting, and learning how to weld. Three of the new hires joined Local 286 and are training as apprentices. With new skills and responsibilities, the three apprentices are now earning $16 an hour.

“As a small company, MPS understands the value of innovation and cooperation,” said Lee.

About On-the-Job Training
To help employers acquire the skilled workers they need, Workforce Solutions Capital Area can fund on-the-job training for eligible individuals. The new hires will learn job skills while working full-time. Pending eligibility, Workforce Solutions Capital Area may reimburse the employer for up to 50 percent of the new hire’s salary for up to three months.

Interested employers must commit to hiring and retaining the individuals who successfully complete their training programs. To learn more about available assistance for employers, visit our Employee Services page.

Today is the Day to Declutter Your Desk

14 Jan

secretary is organizing files and documents in office

The second Monday of January annually recognizes National Clean Off Your Desk Day. On January 14, let’s begin the new year with a clean and organized workspace.

Rising stacks of reports, stained coffee mugs and dirty dishes from the last holiday potluck can make for a cluttered and distracting workspace. Keeping your desk organized and clean will help you keep your concentration and satisfaction in your work.

Keep these three tips in mind to clean up your desk—and keep it clean!

Declutter every day. Make a habit of clearing off snack wrappers, dishes, and old notes from your desk before you go home each day. Set out the documents you will need in the morning. This way, your desk will be clean and ready for work in the morning.

Scan and save. Decrease desktop clutter and minimize the risk of losing important information by scanning printed documents and saving them as PDFs on your computer. Using digital copies saves space on your desk, and saves paper, too.

Keep it clean. Keep disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer close by and wipe down surfaces weekly. Increase your cleanings to daily during flu season to prevent the spread of germs.

Looking for more cleaning inspiration? Follow the #CleanOffYourDeskDay hastag. If you have some cleaning suggestions, share them in a comment below!

Prescribe Your Thanks on National Pharmacist Day

12 Jan

Two women working in a pharmacy

Did you make a speedy recovery the last time you had a cold? There’s no better time to thank the person who helped you than today, National Pharmacist Day. A day like today is important as healthcare becomes more collaborative and more pharmacists are integrated into care teams.

In the Austin/Travis County area, pharmacy technician is an in-demand job with many openings. Pharmacy technicians work at retail pharmacies and healthcare facilities, where they advise and help patients, learn new pharmacy technology (like robotic dispensing machines) and call doctors’ offices and insurance companies. Austinites working in this occupation earned an entry level wage of $12.42 an hour in 2017, above the national entry level wage of $11.23 an hour.

Valerie Martinez is a young Austin resident who is pursuing her professional and educational goals on a path that leads through Austin’s healthcare sector. Her journey to becoming a pharmacy technician started with a chance encounter with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Program at Goodwill Central Texas. Read Valerie’s story here.

As part of this growing recognition of healthcare workers, Pharmacy Times, a full-service pharmacy media resource, launched the #APharmacistIs campaign to link messages and photos of thanks from the American public to these healthcare workers. Use the hashtag today to show your appreciation. Have another idea in mind to celebrate America’s pharmacists? Tell us in a comment below!

On the Path to Self-Sufficiency

6 Dec

Vanessa Contreras is a single mother with a young child. Over the summer of 2018, she applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). HHSC determined Vanessa was eligible for the Choices program, which provides one-on-one job search assistance and support services for people receiving TANF assistance.

Next, Vanessa came to Workforce Solutions Capital Area and attended a Workforce Orientation for Applicants in July 2018. This was her introduction to the many services available to Austin residents like herself.

Vanessa met with Hilaria Gonzales, a program support specialist at Workforce Solutions Capital Area. Together, they planned for Vanessa’s success in the Choices program.

Vanessa Contreras

Vanessa Contreras

Vanessa faced many barriers at the time—first was finding child care for her newborn. Because many child care centers do not accept newborn children, Vanessa was able to secure temporary care through friends. With this assistance, Vanessa completed her orientation and the four-day Career MAPS workshops offered at Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s three Career Centers and began her job search.

“Vanessa was determined to be self-sufficient,” Hilaria said. “Although she faced barriers, she was not deterred from attending workshops, meeting program guidelines, and finding employment. She utilized all the resources at the Career Center to find a job.”

For Vanessa, the information she learned at the workshops and her experiences in Choices helped to raise her awareness of how much value these services can provide to job seekers like herself: “At first, I was not interested in it so much, but after I started my job searching and my weekly meetings with Hilaria, I noticed she was into helping me so much to find a job and find child care.”

Vanessa added, “It was more than what I thought it would be. I liked it: how they treat you, how they go on to help you find a job and push you and help you reach for more.”

Within two weeks, in early August 2018, Vanessa found care for her child with assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area, and a job as a day porter supervisor with the janitorial crew at Clean Texas Janitorial. She now works full-time and is determined to continue employment to provide for her new family.

“I put in a lot of hours, more than I expected, but it gives me an opportunity to open doors and be more than a part-time worker like when I started. I didn’t expect to earn this responsibility in such a short time,” said Vanessa.

“Vanessa has learned the value of communication and keeps us informed of any changes,” Hilaria said. “She completed her first 60 days of employment in November. Our support has empowered a single mother to be on the path towards self-sufficiency.”

For other job seekers who may not be aware of all the valuable services available at Workforce Solutions Capital Area, as she once was, Vanessa offered some advice: “Reach for your goals: this can go a long way and you can find a good job. Workforce Solutions is here to help you succeed, and not just give you a job just to have a job,” she said.

“They want you to achieve and reach for your goals. Don’t settle for something small—they are here to help you be the best worker employers are looking for,” Vanessa said.


About Choices
For individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers one-on-one job search assistance and support services through the Choices program. This no-cost employment program was designed to give TANF recipients the assistance and support they need to find a job. Specifically, Choices can provide assistance with job searching, child care, transportation and more.

Visit Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s TANF page to learn more.

For GenTX Month, Let’s Celebrate Texas Students Preparing Their Education Future

20 Nov

Students Walking - Horizontal

November is GenerationTX (GenTX) Month! This month is the opening of the 2019-2020 FAFSA and TASFA application process, so it’s a perfect time to encourage Texas students to apply for college and prepare for the next steps in their education.

GenTX is an initiative from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) that combines the statewide College Application and Financial Aid Awareness campaign, the nationwide American College Application Campaign initiative, and the 60x30TX Texas Challenge to Reach Higher efforts into one exciting month to encourage students to complete a college application and FAFSA.

What kind of opportunities are available for students who continue on their education path after high school? Healthcare, information technology, and skilled trades and advanced manufacturing are the three key sectors of the Austin/Travis County area, and related in-demand occupations include:

  • Certified Nursing Assistants: Through 2026, Austin’s economy will add 4,637 roles in this occupation.
  • Computer Programmers: The entry-level wage for this occupation is $27.41 per hour in Austin.
  • Electricians: This occupation earns an entry-level wage of $16.66 per hour, which is almost 8% more than the state entry-level wage.

Across Texas, schools are observing GenTX Month to encourage and celebrate students who are applying for financial aid and planning and applying to institutions of higher learning. How will you celebrate GenTX Month? Tell us in a comment below!

For National Apprenticeship Week, We’re Celebrating America’s Skilled Workforce

13 Nov

Carpenter training an apprentice.

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) is a celebration by leaders in business, labor, education, and other critical partners nationwide, and an opportunity to demonstrate our support for apprenticeship. NAW also gives apprenticeship sponsors a perfect time to showcase their programs, facilities, and apprentices in their community.

This weeklong event highlights the benefits of apprenticeship in preparing a highly-skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of employers across diverse industries. Registered apprenticeship programs are gateways to good middle-class jobs in the US construction industry. People interested in a career in skilled trades can begin with the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum and pick up the tools and techniques for occupations ranging from plumbing and electrical work to sheet metal and iron work, and do it under the guidance of master craftworkers.

To celebrate NAW, let’s recognize skilled workers like Savannah Marvets, who completed an apprenticeship program to become a licensed plumber. Let’s also congratulate the students at Lanier High School who are participating in an electrician pre-apprentice dual credit course to become the next generation of skilled electricians keeping the lights on in Austin.

If you’re interested in participating in NAW, then visit the Department of Labor website to find a NAW event near you. Job seekers can connect with employers investing in their workforce through apprenticeship at Do you have something planned for celebrating NAW? Tell us about it in a comment below!

Learning New Skills and Sharpening Old Ones

12 Nov

Dan Cochran has lived in the Austin area for 10 years. His background is in Information Technology, a key economic sector in Austin/Travis County, and his experience with computers began in the military.

Dan enlisted in the U.S. Navy about 6 months after high school and served from 1989 to 1994: “My seagoing squadron was a vertical replenishment/search and rescue platform of H-46 helicopters. I was a plane captain, aircrewman and in-flight electrician,” said Dan.

Dan Cochran

Dan Cochran

“I also served as squadron respiratory program supervisor and the squadron tool calibration coordinator. I created databases to help me track variables, and this was my first introduction to computers in a work setting,” Dan said.

Over the winter of 2017, Dan was seeking a new opportunity in IT. His job searching was unsuccessful, and he sought assistance.

“Workforce Solutions was my first stop after talking with the Texas Workforce Commission for unemployment benefits. I admit, it was a little intimidating going through the mandatory introduction classes and learning how job searching had changed,” Dan said.

At Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Dan met with Melinda Gilley, a career counselor, and Krissi Wells, a data analyst, to explore training opportunities.

“Workforce Solutions, especially Krissi Wells, was a godsend. She kept me motivated and held me responsible,” Dan said.

With assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Dan enrolled in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program in February 2018, after realizing his computer skills were outdated and he lacked certifications required by employers.

WIOA is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job. WIOA can provide services such as job search assistance, child care assistance while in training, transportation assistance, and more. Veterans like Dan receive priority for job and training referrals at our three Career Centers and within the WIOA program.

In March, Dan began the Security Information Technology Associate program at New Horizons. The program was taught live online with students participating on their computers, and Dan found it to be a valuable experience.

“Unlike just watching videos, when you got confused, the instructor could try explaining another way. Despite being remote to one another, there was a lot of discussion and fun,” Dan said.

“The class was fairly moderately paced. I knew most of the basics of hardware, but I really lacked any network and zero security understanding. It filled in many gaps I had in my understanding of things I thought I knew,” he added.

Additional classes Dan took through the WIOA program focused on resume writing, job searching, interviewing and utilizing LinkedIn: “I attended classes at Workforce Solutions Capital Area and New Horizons, and I learned a variety of techniques that I used in my actual job hunt,” he said.

“Dan came into WIOA with a great attitude and was ready to get started on his career. He is a very intelligent man and dedicated father, and his positivity, drive and love for his children pushed him through any minor setback that he may have faced,” Krissi said.

“He took everything that came his way with grace and with a growth mindset. He has already accomplished so much and is in route to accomplish much more. I am honored that I was able to work with him and assist him on his new journey,” she said.

Dan tested for his certifications in June. Upon completion of his training, Daniel began working as a field service engineer for Compucom.

“I am working on hardware for both home consumers and retail customers, and work alone or as the lead of a small group. Point of Sale devices, kiosks, printers and office support are my daily jobs,” Dan said.

“Dan utilized the skills and knowledge he gained from serving in the Navy, and that contributed to his success in his training,” said Melinda.

“Dan wanted to secure a job which would allow him to provide for himself and his family, and the WIOA services and training he received allowed him to do so,” she said.

“I am amazed at how technological the retail industry has become. Everything that involves financial transactions involves the Security+ concepts I learned in my class. It is interesting to actually see the practices in place, and not just as a theory,” said Dan.

Looking back on his experience with the WIOA program, Dan offered advice to other job seekers who may be struggling to find work opportunities or are interested in assistance but are unsure where to look:

“I cannot say enough about the help I received from this program from both the New Horizons team and the Workforce Solution folks. I was in the Resource Center nearly daily and actually was offered leads to jobs while helping fellow job seekers,” said Dan.

“The classes and mock interviews are wonderful tools to find your strengths and weaknesses. If you are a veteran, there are many programs out there that can and will help you beyond the GI Bill,” he said.

Learning new skills and sharpening existing ones is another important point: “If your skills have stagnated, take a class while you are looking for a job or even if you still have a job. The way technology changes, going five years without refreshing your skills is foolish,” Dan said.

“Also, use this time to build your network—it is amazing how many people know someone who is hiring if you just ask around. I attended many job fairs and learned of unexpected programs that offer training, such as Easterseals and Goodwill Central Texas,” added Dan.

Dan also recommend job seekers make time to identify what it is they want to do to find the most satisfaction in their career: “Take advantage of the self-assessments and learn what you like to do. Do not try to take a job just because it pays well. IT, especially Security+, feeds my passion to work with technology and help people solve their problems. I encourage others to invest their time in getting their skills and certifications,” he said.

About WIOA
Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers financial assistance to eligible individuals for job search assistance, training, and other support services through funding from the WIOA program. This is a no-cost employment program designed to give job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job.


Visit Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s WIOA page to learn more.

Take a Deep Breath, It’s Stress Awareness Day

4 Nov

Satisfied Funny Multiethnic Male Workers Leaning Back In Chairs,

In terms of human biology, stress serves a useful purpose. But modern life can bring more than enough stress to transform day-to-day living into a struggle. Whether the cause is related to the pressures of your professional role or in personal relationships, too much stress can be harmful. That’s why Stress Awareness Day is an important occasion to recognize the stress in our lives and how it affects us.

The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) established Stress Awareness Day in 1998 to help provide information on stress, and strategies on how to address it for both employers and people. ISMA helps employers and employees help each other by providing comprehensive guides to establishing stress management programs within their organizations, and individuals by caring for their health and well-being each day.

On Stress Awareness Day, let’s make time to identify what’s stressing us out in our own lives and implement solutions. These can include exercising more, meditating, a change in diet or making more time to be with loved ones.

Is your stress work-related? Losing a job can be a source of tremendous stress. If you’ve been laid off, or seek a new role or new skills to advance your career, then Workforce Solutions Capital Area can help. Visit our Job Seekers page to explore available resources.

What is your favorite stress management technique? Let us know in a comment below!

Why It’s Important to Celebrate Family Literacy

1 Nov
family reading a book together

Family reading a book together.

The family that reads together, learns together. When parents are involved in their children’s reading, it has a positive effect on their growing language and literacy skills. For this reason, we’re celebrating National Family Literacy Day today.

This day is meant to bring awareness to the importance of family literacy through the encouragement and education of parents and caregivers, with a focus on the powerful lifelong effect on learning that begins when they participate in children’s literacy practices.

Since 1994, when Congress passed a joint resolution designating November 1 as National Family Literacy Day, people nationwide have celebrated the value of family literacy programs. Your local school and library may be celebrating today with activities like read-a-thons and book drives.

How can you help your children become more literate? Here are three ideas perfect for National Family Literacy Day:

Encourage children to read to their younger siblings. When older brothers or sisters are reading, they are demonstrating their love of reading to their younger siblings.

Take turns. Involve your children in preparing reading times. When then can choose the book, time or location, they will feel more involved.

Schedule it. Reading is just as important as play dates and practices for children’s growth. Make reading a priority by marking reading times on your calendar. You don’t have to limit reading to just today! Make time in your schedule, and you can make reading to your children a regular habit.

Becoming more involved in your children’s literacy is just one way you can be a great parent. For more ideas and resources, visit our Child Care Resources page.

Have other ideas? Let us know in a comment below!