Honoring Austin’s Veterans with Employment on National Hire a Veteran Day

25 Jul

Military Badges

Every day, hundreds of military members complete their service. These veterans must make many decisions when transitioning from uniformed service to civilian life, and one of the most important ones is what career path to select. As demand for workers grows in Austin, we’re observing National Hire a Veteran Day today to encourage businesses to consider veterans in their employment strategies.

National Hire a Veteran Day was founded by Hire Our Heroes, a not-for-profit organization assisting veterans with their transition experience. Why observe National Hire a Veteran Day? Austin is home to more than 35,000 veterans, and two-thirds of them are veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq, according to the US Census Bureau.

Many local employers honor Austin’s veterans by hiring them, such as William Baca, owner of William Baca Insurance. William served in the U.S. Army for eight years, and today keeps a keen eye out for other veterans seeking career opportunities.

These include veterans like Dan Cole, who served in the U.S. Navy for five years in a seagoing helicopter squadron, where he was first introduced to computers in a work setting. Today, Dan works as a field service engineer, having earned his certificates in a Security Information Technology Associate program with assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area. Also James Poissot, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for nine years and completed multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq working on manual and automatic transmissions. James was homeless after arriving in Austin, but with assistance from the Workforce Investment Act program through Workforce Solutions Capital Area, James found full-time employment.

An additional benefit that businesses receive when hiring veterans is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), a federal income tax benefit administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) for employers who hire veterans and other individuals from specified target populations. Credits are available in amounts from $2,400 to $9,600 depending on the veteran group. Visit our Finding Talent page to learn more about the tax credits currently available for hires.

Texas is supportive of its veterans, and businesses that employ those who served are eligible for recognition from the state. In 2017, the Office of the Governor and the Texas Workforce Commission partnered with the Texas Veterans Commission to create the We Hire Vets employer recognition program. Employers whose workforce consists of at least 10 percent veterans can apply for recognition a decal to display on their storefronts and a digital badge to feature on their websites.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s Board Staff received the We Hire Vets award in 2018 and 2019 and also the DOL 2018 Gold HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration Award, which recognizes employer efforts to recruit, employ, and retain veterans. Veterans make up 14 percent of the Board Staff, with a combined 19 years of service.

At our three Career Centers, veterans receive priority for job and training referrals. Our career specialists are specifically trained to help veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and can help Austin’s veterans achieve maximum employment and training opportunities. Visit our Veterans Services page to learn more.

How will you help spread the word about the skills and value veterans bring to the workforce on National Hire a Veteran Day? Tell us is a comment below!

Tony Gayles Faced His Challenges and Found Success

14 Jun
Tony Gayles

Tony Gayles

Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers job seekers the support and/or skills training they need to find a job, including training for in-demand occupations, with a variety of programs with public and private funding. Tony Gayles is a job seeker who has benefited from these training services, and today he is working a productive and satisfying job.

Tony has lived in Austin since 2005, when his family moved here from California. Tony is hearing impaired, which makes searching for a job challenging.

“Job searching for me comes with challenges that could put a cloud over employers seeing me as their prospective employee,” Tony said. “Their foremost thoughts may be how to communicate with me, would I pose a risk to others or myself, and the cost to accommodate my needs or surroundings.”

Tony has not let this challenge stop him from finding work, and in 2019 he came to Workforce Solutions Capital Area to search for a job: “When I first came to Workforce Solutions, I didn’t know what to expect but I was hopeful I would find a job that would match my experiences,” Tony said.

At Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s North Career Center, Tony met with Ruben Altamirano, a career counselor, and together they explored work and training opportunities available with funding from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program.

“Some of the services I’ve used here were computers for job searches and resume writing, a presentation on overcoming barriers, and ASL interpreting services,” Tony said. “Workforce Solutions also gives necessary information and support services to employers to help hearing-impaired job seekers like me find and keep a job.”

Tony also attended an information session to learn about a free manufacturing production training and paid internship to become a Certified Production Technician (CPT). He was one of 14 people in a pool of 78 chosen to participate in the inaugural Certified Production Technician Training Program funded by Texas Mutual Insurance Company and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and offered by Workforce Solutions Capital Area in partnership with Austin Community College and the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association.

“When I was selected to participate in the program, it was an amazing feeling to know that more doors would open up for me,” Tony said.

Tony began participating in the program in February, and earned his CPT certifications and completed his paid internship in March. During the program, he attended classroom training 12 hours per week at Austin Community College’s Highland Campus and worked 200 hours for a paid internship at Community Impact Printing for 40 hours per week. He maintained excellent attendance at both the training and on the job.

“The scheduling was tough especially with having two small children at home, but I’ve managed with help from my mother who cared for my children,” Tony said.

“The classes were nighttime, and the internship started early in the morning with eight-hour shifts. On some days after my shift, I would go straight to classes, which can be exhausting,” Tony said. “I brought coffee to class most of the time. I’ve learned many things, but most important were quality, safety, maintenance and production, which I’ve applied while working at Community Impact Printing.”

During his internship, Tony received many opportunities to apply his new knowledge and excel in a variety of roles.

“Over my first three days, I was rigorously trained for safety, including forklifting, and I’ve obtained my certificate to operate lift trucks. I was assigned different roles and I’m cross-trained to work in warehouse, mail table, inventories and cutter roles. There are more roles that I’m eager to learn in the future,” Tony said.

“Tony has been reaching his goals of being a hard worker and obtaining new skills, and he is growing with Community Impact Printing,” Ruben said.

Today, Tony is working part time at Community Impact Printing until he becomes eligible to work full time.

For other job seekers exploring similar opportunities, Tony offers this advice: “For anyone who chooses to take training like the CPT program, stay motivated and energized until you’ve completed your courses. Your reward will be to accept full-time employment.”

Child Care Providers Receive Recognition on National Provider Appreciation Day

10 May
Director Jerri Thompson reads to a class of children.

Director Jerri Thompson reads to a class of children at St. George’s Episcopal School.

Mother’s Day isn’t the only day in May that we celebrate those individuals who nurture and develop children. Child care providers also deserve recognition, which is why today is National Provider Appreciation Day.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area provides subsidized childcare assistance to eligible low- to moderate-income families in Travis County while parents can find work or complete training to support their families. Our services related to child care are not just for Austin’s parents, however, but child care providers as well. To celebrate the providers caring for Austin’s children—our community’s future workforce—we’re joining the national observance of National Provider Appreciation Day!

This event began in 1996 with a single group of volunteers in New Jersey. The drive to recognize the dedicated efforts of child care providers has grown year by year, and today Provider Appreciation Day is a national event.

We understand the value that child care providers create for their community. By guiding the growth and development of children today, they help positively shape our community tomorrow.

As part of our commitment to quality child care, Workforce Solutions Child Care Services offers quality rated programs, quality initiative activities and other community resources to child care providers who strive for quality.

One of our largest offerings is the Child Care Directors Symposium, now in its 17th year. This two-day event features keynote speakers and workshops to inform and inspire the leadership of our community’s child care providers.

The 2019 symposium was held February 22 – 23 with 250 directors in attendance. The speakers and workshops motivated participants to strengthen their centers’ programs for the benefit of staff and children alike.

We also offer an annual Child Care Teachers Symposium to provide professional development opportunities for the staff at child care centers. The Austin community benefits when we guide child care staff and administrators to provide high-quality care to local families.

Use the hashtag #ProviderAppreciationDay on social media to follow the Provider Appreciation Day momentum. How will you celebrate? Tell us in a comment below!

On National Teacher Appreciation Day, Thanking Those Who Guide the Next Generation

7 May

Asian Female Teacher Teaching Mixed Race Diversity Group Of Kids

The youth learning and playing in Austin today will become the skilled and productive workforce of tomorrow. To help guide them on their journey, many Austinites act as teachers in child care centers and schools across our community. For their valuable role, we’re thanking them today on National Teacher Appreciation Day.

The National Education Association describes National Teacher Day as “a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.” Every day, teachers mold children’s lives in a positive direction.

We support Austin’s child care teachers by hosting the annual Child Care Teachers Symposium, a daylong event of learning, networking and storytelling to motivate and remind teachers while their roles are so important. Almost 300 teachers attended 2018’s event. This year’s Child Care Teachers Symposium is scheduled for August 10 at the Hyatt Regency, with a theme that focuses on teacher-child interaction and positive guidance.

Today, say “Thank you” to the teachers in your life and let them know that they are appreciated. Learn about the teachers in the lives of others by following the hashtag #TeacherAppreciationDay or #NationalTeachersDay on social media. Who are the teachers who inspire you or your children? Tell us in a comment below!

Support Texas Students Getting to and Through College on GenTX Day

3 May

2019 GenTXDay

Today is a special day, and not just because it’s Friday. Today is GenTX Decision Day, an important milestone in the Generation Texas movement. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) created the Generation Texas movement in 2010 as a statewide initiative to support all students, and high school seniors especially, in getting to and through college.

GenTX Decision Day is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate students for their postsecondary plans in front of their school’s entire student body. It’s an exciting day with school spirit and communities working together to build excitement and awareness surrounding the college selection and enrollment process.

THECB’s 2019 goals are to have at least 1,200 Texas high schools accept the challenge and register for GenTX Decision Day to support students with activities, events, and outreach; every participating high school in Texas increase ApplyTexas and FAFSA completions by 4 percent above last year; and every eligible student complete and submit the FAFSA or TASFA and an application to at least one institution of higher education.

Generation Texas also supports the regional efforts and goals of the 60x30TX Texas Challenge to Reach Higher, which aligns with the national Reach Higher Initiative, to increase completion of college applications, FAFSA, and college readiness indicators.

You can help contribute to the spirit of the day by talking to students about their college choices or reaching out to students to encourage them to complete the enrollment process. Do you know any students who might traditionally be overlooked when it comes to college planning? Engage with them about their options for college! Ask about their postsecondary education plans after high school as they board the bus, go through the lunch line, or walk into church, a store, or their classrooms!

You can follow GenTX Decision Day on social media with the hashtag #GenTXDay. Have other ideas about how to inspire young Texans to participate? Tell us in a comment below!

Parents Like Darriana Donegan Return to the Workforce with Continuity of Care

9 Apr
Darriana Donegan and her son

Darriana Donegan and her son.

Searching for a job can be a challenging experience, and more so if you have children to care for. To help ease the process, Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers a variety of services for parents who are seeking work, like Darriana Donegan.

Darriana moved from Iowa to Texas in May 2018 and stayed briefly with family in San Antonio. She made Austin her home in August 2018. “I currently live in North Austin, far enough out to feel the small city peace and quiet, but close enough to downtown to still feel connected,” Darriana said.

After her move, Darriana was unemployed and lacked the resources needed to provide child care for her son. Through word of mouth, she was able to explore assistance available from Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

“I learned about Workforce Solutions Capital Area from a friend of mine who is employed by the University of Texas and also has little ones,” said Darriana. “She recommended that I look into Workforce Solutions for childcare assistance when I began my transition from being a stay-at-home mom to a working mom.”

Darriana met with Theresa Nealy, Child Care Navigator with Workforce Solutions Capital Area, and enrolled in the Continuity of Care (CoC) program, which provides quality child care services while parents search for a job.

“My first impression of Workforce Solutions is a memorable one,” said Darriana. “Theresa left me a voicemail stating that my application had been approved and that she was looking forward to talking more with me. I was very excited to receive that call that solidified my access to being a working mom, otherwise I would not have been able to afford the full cost of child care.”

While participating in the program, Darriana had positive impressions of her experience.

“I had a great experience in the CoC program. Theresa was available to answer any of my questions in a timely manner and was always able to point me in the correct direction to resources,” said Darriana. “The paperwork was as simple as it could be and the flexibility in submitting via in person, fax, and email were super helpful for me with my new busy schedule.”

“Darriana used our resources to change her economic status and secure quality child care services for her son. This is quite an accomplishment, given the customer relocated to Austin and did not have adequate resources to obtain child care, job search and secure gainful employment,” said Theresa.

With her son receiving care, Darriana committed herself to proactively seeking a job with assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area. She secured a full-time position within 90 days. Today, Darriana works at Youth Rise Texas, a nonprofit in East Austin that works with young people who have been impacted by incarceration or deportation, so that they may heal, take action, and cultivate compassionate communities.

“My role at Youth Rise is Program Coordinator: I lead a team of four and together we work to coordinate all of the moving pieces that make Youth Rise programs so successful!” Darriana said.

Looking back on her experience to secure care for her son and full-time employment, Darriana offered advice for others who may be in her same situation.

“My advice to any parent who is looking to transition back into the workforce after a break is to check out the CoC program while you are on your job search,” Darriana said. “You receive 90 days of care, a plethora of job search resources (really great jobs, too!), and the time that you need to really focus on your job search.”

She added, “It’s really hard to be on the hunt for a job while worrying about having to afford child care while going on interviews. The CoC program will relieve that stress for you!”


About Continuity of Care
Continuity of Care (CoC) serves as a dual-generation program for low-income families in Travis County, focusing on the whole child as well as the family and community context for growth and development. CoC ensures continuity of services in instances where child care would otherwise be terminated, such as when parents have completed workforce development programs and are currently seeking employment.

CoC ensures continuity of high-quality child care for low income families, serves as an investment rather than an expenditure to the City of Austin because it promotes family self-sufficiency by increasing family capacity to gain or maintain earnings, and provides consistent high-quality child care which helps prepare children to enter kindergarten.

This program is funded by Travis County and the City of Austin, and administered by the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board. Workforce Orientation for Applicants (WOA) is an introduction to Workforce Solutions office services.

#MeetTheChallenge with the Texas Internship Challenge

5 Apr


Why participate in an internship? Because it offers benefits for employers and students alike!

Hosting an internship helps businesses build a skilled and experienced workforce, and 73% of interns are offered a full-time position, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. That’s why we’re inviting employers and Texas youth to Meet the Challenge and participate in the Texas Internship Challenge!

The Texas Internship Challenge is a recommendation from the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Education Agency and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to the Governor’s Office, as part of the Tri-Agency Initiative to challenge industry and employer partners to offer more paid internships for Texas students.

Employers can post internships, and students can apply for them at TXInternshipChallenge.com. This free website offers access to thousands of internship postings around Texas. TXInternshipChallenge.com is designed to meet accessibility guidelines, offers veterans’ preference hiring, and supports technical as well as non-technical positions.

Read to #MeetTheChallenge? Have a dream internship you’re pursuing? Tell us in a comment below!

A Growing Commitment to Quality Care at St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center

15 Mar
St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center

St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center staff

Each year, Workforce Solutions Capital Area hosts the Child Care Directors Symposium, an educational event for child care providers in Austin and Travis County to connect and share ideas. This annual training event is one of our largest offerings, and the symposium is now in its 17th year.

In 2019, one of the attendees was St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center. This was the fifth year the center’s leadership attended, said Co-Director Margaret English-Knipp.

“We are an early childhood center with our Catholic church, and we have been in Austin for about 40 years,” said Margaret. “We have five classrooms. We teach children ages zero to four years, and we have 70 children enrolled.”

For the past five years, St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center has engaged with Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s Child Care Services team. We love working with them. We go to their trainings and take advantage of having trainers come out to us,” said Margaret.

The Child Care Directors Symposium is one of the many quality-related activities the school engages in with Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Margaret said. Another key identifier of St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center’s dedication to the delivery of quality care is their participation in the Texas Rising Star (TRS) program. The school is currently a 2-star rated program (out of 4 stars).

“We are working on the process of becoming a 4-star with a mentor from Workforce Solutions Capital Area,” Margaret said. “I like their philosophy and the way they treat the staff at our center.”

St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center has participated in the TRS program for seven years. Why is participation important? “Because of the quality of trainings our staff gets,” Margaret said. “Also, we are a Catholic-based early childhood center, so we treat this as a ministry, as well. We like to offer quality childcare to people who might not otherwise afford it. So, people who are clients of Workforce Solutions Capital Area can be served here.”

In her role as a co-director, Margaret finds value in attending the symposium: “It’s good to be around people that are in your position and brainstorm ideas together. I feel like Workforce Solutions Capital Area understands early childhood educators and they take care of us.”

Margaret added, “We really liked the keynote speaker. She gave us her book, and we liked it so much, we will do a book study with our staff on it.”

With the symposium concluded, Margaret is incorporating what she learned into her day-to-day work.

“For me, it’s taking more ownership of what I do, and the symposium gave me tools for handling different situations with our staff. It gave me some really good ideas, like having the book study,” she said. “My co-director took a class on TRS and earning higher rating levels, and she has ideas on that.”

About the Texas Rising Star program
The Texas Rising Star program is for child care providers who meet quality requirements that exceed the state’s minimum licensing standards and that are designed to enhance the intellectual, physical, and social development of children in care. In return for their commitment to quality, providers receive numerous benefits including enhanced reimbursement rates, learning materials and equipment, child development college course scholarships, and more.


Learn more about the Texas Rising Star program here.

Employees Do Great Work, and Employers are Recognizing Them on National Employee Appreciation Day

1 Mar

Group Of People Show Ok Or Approval With Thumb Up During Confere
There are many ways for organizations to build and strengthen their internal cultures, and today we’re focusing on appreciation. That’s because the first Friday in March is National Employee Appreciation Day.

Beginning in 1995, employers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have observed National Employee Appreciation Day by thanking their workforce for their dedication and contributions. Since then, studies have shown that recognition and appreciation are growing in importance for workers’ happiness and engagement. In 2015, a white paper from the Cicero Group entitled Employee Performance: What Causes Great Work? (PDF) concluded that excellent recognition drives employees to do great work. Additionally, effective employee recognition may be the leading reason that employees perform at their highest level, according to the study.

Findings like these are inspiring many organizations to show their appreciation today in a variety of ways, including special lunches, team outings, small gifts, or time off. Employees do special work, so it’s fitting for employers to share recognition on a special day like National Employee Appreciation Day.

How is your organization celebrating National Employee Appreciation Day? Tell us in a comment below!

The Child Care Directors Symposium Inspires and Informs Providers

14 Feb


Workforce Solutions Capital Area provides subsidized childcare assistance to eligible low- to moderate-income families in Travis County while parents can find work or complete training to support their families. Our services related to child care are not just for Austin’s parents, however, but child care providers as well. One of our largest offerings is an annual training event called the Child Care Directors Symposium, now in its 17th year.

This year’s Directors Symposium is February 22 – 23 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Austin. We partnered with Kaplan Early Learning Company and Lakeshore Learning Company to host this valuable educational event for providers of high-quality early childhood education in Austin/Travis County.

The two-day Directors Symposium features keynote speakers and many working sessions for the directors of child care providers to earn training hours around specific areas for licensing, leadership and advocacy that meet state and Texas Rising Star requirements. Hundreds of directors from the Austin metro region and neighboring communities attend each year.

Each symposium has a theme, and 2019’s is Breaking Barriers: Changing the Climate Within Your Program. With this theme, we hope to motivate participants to strengthen their centers’ programs for the benefit of staff and children alike.

Why offer an event like this? The Austin community benefits when we inform and inspire child care staff and administrators to provide high-quality care to local families. Nurturing the next generation of Austin’s workforce is just one of the many ways Workforce Solutions Capital Area strives to enhance the economic competitiveness of our region.