Let’s Celebrate Confidence on National Youth Confidence Day

20 Oct

Diversity Students Friends Happiness Concept

Today is National Youth Confidence Day, a day to celebrate the confidence of young people everywhere. Providing positive role models is necessary to developing young adults who are responsible and confident, which is why it’s worthwhile to connect and inspire young people today.

Confident Girl Mentoring Program, Inc., a nonprofit organization, founded National Youth Confidence Day to encourage a strong foundation of positive relationships to mentor today’s youth and acknowledge their future accomplishments.

How can we celebrate National Youth Confidence Day? Offer encouragement to young people and remind them that their experiences are learning opportunities to help them achieve their goals. Listen to their stories and celebrate their successes.

Here in Austin, we’re helping young people transition from high school to post-secondary education, training or employment with the Youth Employment Partnership. Workforce Solutions Capital Area funds this program, and four community partners participate: American YouthWorks, Community in Schools, Goodwill Central Texas, and LifeWorks.

Young people in Austin live in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. With so many career opportunities to explore, we’re assisting youth with a variety of resources to help prepare for the future, including a series of industry and occupational career profiles that contain information on growth projections, salary expectations, and education/skill requirements.

For students with disabilities, aged 16 -22, the Summer Earn and Learn (SEAL) program provides work readiness training and paid work experience. SEAL is a statewide strategy that includes employability skills training and paid work experience for students with disabilities. Here in Austin, Colton Head participated in SEAL in 2017 and gained confidence through his work experience. Read Colton’s story.

Do you have something in mind to make National Youth Confidence Day special? Tell us in a comment below!

Why Providers, Patients and the Public are Paying Their Respects to Medical Assistants Today

17 Oct

Happy Successful Medical Team

Today is Medical Assistants Recognition Day, celebrated on the third Wednesday of October, when providers, patients and the public express their gratitude for the essential work these healthcare professionals perform. Medical Assistants Recognition Day is part of the Medical Assistants Recognition Week series of events promoted by the American Association of Medical Assistants.

Medical assistants are often the backbone of doctors’ offices. Some occupy the front desk and check patients in when they arrive for an appointment. Others show patients to the exam room, take histories, prepare them for the doctor’s exam, and even assist during the exam. Still other assistants handle insurance forms and referrals or billing.

This is a fast-growing career across the nation, and especially in Austin, where healthcare is one of the three key economic sectors of our region. In 2014, there were 2,410 people working in this occupation in Austin/Travis County. By 2024, that number will grow to 3,250.

This positive outlook for growth reflects the important role medical assistants play in healthcare, and why a day like Medical Assistants Recognition Day is so important. How will you celebrate today? Tell us in a comment below!

Have You Thanked Your Pharmacy Technician Today?

16 Oct

Two women working in a pharmacy

Did you know the third Tuesday in October is National Pharmacy Technician Day? Today, we thank these hard workers for their care for patients and for their professional contributions to the healthcare sector.

This annual event is endorsed by the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians and the Pharmacy Technician Educators Council. In their role, pharmacy technicians prepare medications under the direction of a pharmacist, and measure, mix, count out, label and record amounts and dosages of medications according to prescription orders.

This is a growing occupation in Austin’s healthcare sector. In 2014, there were 1,480 pharmacy technicians working here. By 2024, this occupation will grow to 1,920 openings. One of Austin’s new pharmacy technicians is Valerie Martinez, who began her healthcare career at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center in May 2018. Read her story here.

Interested in observing National Pharmacy Technician Day? You can download graphics and stickers at the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board website. Have other ideas? Tell us in a comment below!

Today We Honor Emergency Nurses for Their Commitment to Patient Care

10 Oct

Visiting Doctors Updating Patient's Medical Card

Since 1989, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has recognized the second Wednesday in October as Emergency Nurses Day to honor emergency nurses for their commitment to patient care. In 2001, Emergency Nurses Day became part of a weeklong celebration by ENA for the contributions of emergency nurses.

Today, we say “thank you” to emergency room nurses for their hard work and service, and for their dedication and commitment to their patients. Here in Austin, healthcare is a key economic sector, and the demand for the services of nurses is only growing. By 2024, the Austin region will require almost 15,000 nurses, making a day like Emergency Nurses Day even more relevant.

How will you thank emergency nurses for their life-saving work today? Tell us in a comment below!

On National Manufacturing Day, We Celebrate Employers’ Contributions to the Economy

5 Oct


October 5 is a big day, and not just because it’s Friday. Today, many employers are celebrating National Manufacturing Day, which falls on the first Friday of October. Today is a rallying point for employers in the manufacturing industry to come together and address collective challenges to help their communities and future workforce grow and thrive.

On National Manufacturing Day, America’s workforce celebrates the leadership and skilled talent of the manufacturing industry. This holiday has its origins in 2012, when Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey proclaimed the first Manufacturing Day. President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation for 2014’s National Manufacturing Day.

Manufacturing employers create products and develop technologies to enhance the competitiveness of America’s economy. Here in Austin, skilled trades and advanced manufacturing is one of the three key economic sectors of our region.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area is collaborating with several key stakeholders in our region’s manufacturing sector, including the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association (ARMA), to develop a strategy that simultaneously addresses the skill and hiring needs of manufacturing companies while also creating pathways to good jobs for Central Texas residents.

We developed an asset map of education and training programs located in the Austin-Round Rock MSA that are helping students and workers acquire the skills and credentials needed by our region’s manufacturing employers. It’s this kind of forward-thinking approach that makes celebrating the manufacturing workforce worthwhile.

Are you involved in Austin’s advanced manufacturing sector? How will you observe National Manufacturing Day? Tell us in a comment below!

We’re Recognizing Careers in Construction All October Long

3 Oct

rbww_28October is Careers in Construction Month, with a proclamation from Gov. Greg Abbott encouraging Texans to learn more about the construction industry and to celebrate the contributions of the construction workforce.

Spearheaded by the National Center for Construction Education & Research and Build Your Future, Careers in Construction Month is gaining momentum with 29 states already filing their proclamations to celebrate this nationwide observance.

This month, let’s recognize skilled construction workers like Savannah Marvets, who is completing 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.

Occupations like plumbers and electricians are just two of the many skilled trades now in high demand by employers in Austin/Travis County. With shortages of skilled craft professionals increasing across the country, now is the time to promote and support construction careers in every state.

How will you show your appreciation for all the skilled men and women working hard to build America and motivate youth to pursue a successful career in the construction industry? Tell us in a comment below!

America’s Workforce Celebrates Workers with Disabilities in October

1 Oct

Invalid or disabled young business woman person sitting wheelcha

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and this year’s theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”

This month, we celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities to promote the value of a workforce inclusive of the skills and talents of disabled workers.

NDEAM has a long history. In 1945, Congress declared the first week in October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Congress expanded the week to a month in 1988 and changed the name to “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.” When the Office of Disability Employment Policy was established in 2001, expanding the reach of NDEAM became one of its objectives.

Every October, employers of all sizes and across many industries observe and celebrate NDEAM, doing everything from displaying NDEAM posters to implementing disability education programs.

Here in Austin, the Texas HireAbility Capital Region Job Fair will connect employers with people with disabilities looking for meaningful employment. This free event will be on October 12, 2018 from 9 am to 12 pm at ESC Region 13 (5701 Springdale Rd Austin, TX 78723). To learn more, visit our Special Events page.

Interested in sharing the word about how disabled workers contribute to America’s workforce? Check out the 31 Days of NDEAM slideshow from the Department of Labor.

This October, let’s engage in fostering a more inclusive workforce that recognizes all workers for their abilities. How will you participate? Tell us in a comment below!

How to Earn a Reputation for Providing a Higher Quality of Child Care

21 Sep

Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers a variety of training programs and opportunities to the many child care providers partnering with us to serve families in the Austin/Travis County region. These include quality rated programs, quality initiative activities and other community resources to child care providers who strive for quality.

One of these programs is Texas Rising Star (TRS), for child care providers who meet quality requirements that exceed the state’s minimum licensing standards and who strive to enhance the development of the children in their care. A local provider that has excelled in the program, and accomplished much in a short time, is YMOK.

Image displays YMOK child care center

YMOK offers bilingual child care services.

YMOK is licensed for 49 children and has full enrollment, with 33 of the children placed here by Workforce Solutions Capital Area Child Care Services (CCS), said Director Cristina Romero.

“Our main relationship with Workforce Solutions Capital Area is providing care for the CCS children. I have had many interactions with the CCS staff and have found them to be friendly and helpful with resources,” said Cristina.

A focus on continuous learning
Cristina boosts her teachers’ continuing education efforts by supporting them in the Teacher Training, Retention, and Compensation (TRAC) Project through Austin Community College (ACC), and encourages her teachers to pursue their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.

“I offer many opportunities for my staff to receive training. We have face-to-face trainings as well as offering online options,” Cristina said.

“I also have a great relationship with the Teacher TRAC coordinator with ACC. This is a program that offers scholarships for child care teachers to take child development classes at ACC. I have had a couple of teachers take advantage of this opportunity and have received their CDA,” Cristina said.

The importance Cristina and her staff put on learning is reflected by the center’s status as a 4-star TRS provider. The program includes three levels of quality designation—2-star, 3-star, and 4-star.

The center entered the quality program in December 2017 as a 2-star provider. By July 2018, the center earned the highest rating. How did YMOK do it?

“First, I made sure we were following all of the licensing regulations for the state of Texas. I also had a mentor who gave us advice and recommendations throughout our preparation,” Cristina said. “I also made sure we were providing developmentally appropriate activities for our children to provide a higher quality of care.”

“We also have a relationship with the Quality Initiatives program at Workforce Solutions Capital Area, which provided us with a mentor while preparing for our TRS assessment,” Cristina said.

“In a matter of months, YMOK achieved a level 4 status,” said Kristi Vidaure, Customer and Provider Relations Coordinator at Workforce Solutions Capital Area. “The amount of work and commitment it takes to make such a drastic transition is not often seen.”

YMOK 005

A reputation for providing a higher quality of care
YMOK also works closely with local organizations that provide support services to at-risk families, such as Austin Recovery. Families affected by addiction can receive assistance from YMOK, and the center provides continuity of care for parents staying at Austin Recovery and after their departure.

“I want the children to have the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else. I know these children come from tough situations and need a warm, nurturing environment, and we can provide that for them,” said Cristina.

The center provides learning opportunities for children, with a Spanish immersion program included in the infant and preschool curriculum: “I think this is a great opportunity for all children to learn a second language,” Cristina said. “This is also the perfect time to introduce a new language because their brains can learn so quickly at a younger age.”

For Cristina, the benefits of participating in quality programs like TRS are apparent: “A TRS center is one that is known for providing a higher quality of care for the children in our community, and I believe that is what our children deserve,” she said.


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.

How Employers Find Future Workers Today Through Job Shadows

17 Sep

An employer’s search for the next generation of leadership and talent can never start too early. That’s why offering job shadowing opportunities to interested youth can benefit everyone involved—from the participating youth who gain a new perspective about career possibilities, to the employer who has the opportunity to guide future skilled workers.

A job shadowing program can feature on-the-job learning and career development. During the program, employees mentor participants to help them learn more about a certain job, organization or industry.

In Austin, Rogers-O’Brien Construction hosts a summer job shadow program with students from the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, an all-girls college preparatory public school of choice for students in grades 6 through 12.

Image of logo for Rogers-O'Brien Construction

Rogers-O’Brien Construction.

Rogers-O’Brien is a commercial construction company based out of Dallas. The Austin location began offering job shadow opportunities to Ann Richards students in 2015. It all started when the school invited the contractor to participate in their internship program for juniors, said Tara Hernandez, Assistant Project Manager at Rogers-O’Brien Construction.

From the beginning, Rogers-O’Brien recognized the value that job shadowing could provide: “Offering a job shadow helps to raise awareness of our industry,” said Tara. “You can have good people working for you when you find them early.”

How job shadowing can expand perspectives
Construction is often seen as an industry for men to work in. By offering job shadowing, Rogers-O’Brien can raise awareness about the professional opportunities women can find in this industry, said Tara.

“Anne Richards specifically is an all-girl school, and Rogers-O’Brien has many women in our operations department, so it’s fitting that we partner with an all-girls school to raise awareness of the industry and the opportunities that women have in it—in operations, leadership and more—in a historically male-dominated industry.”

Every year, Rogers-O’Brien employees help guide three students in exploring the work done in the office and on the job site over the course of one week.

“We have several departments, so we assigned two of the high school interns to two of our job site operations teams in town, and one with VDC (Virtual Design and Construction),” said Tara. “Our VDC division works with 3D modeling and other technologies such as drones to aid in the construction process. We apply this front-end technology to our projects to ‘build before you build.’”

The interns visited job sites to observe what goes on behind the safety fencing. First, the students completed a safety orientation with Rogers-O’Brien, the standard policy for anyone visiting their job sites, and their parents signed the accompanying paperwork. From there, they accompanied their mentors to ask questions and learn from a safe vantage point, according to Tara.

Image displays two student interns observing a construction site.

Photo courtesy of Rogers-O’Brien Construction.

A rewarding and valuable experience
At the end of their job shadow, the students hosted a presentation at Rogers-O’Brien to share their impressions of their experience for their capstone project.

“When they presented what they had done, they used one of the software programs we use daily to share pictures and stories of their experiences,” Tara said. “It was pretty neat to see.”

For Tara and other Rogers-O’Brien staff who participated in the job shadowing, the opportunity to share what they love about their work made this experience a valuable one.

If the youth don’t have a parent in construction, then it’s not on their radar. It’s very rewarding to open their eyes to what goes into construction and the people behind it. Even if they do not choose to pursue a career in the construction industry, hopefully they can appreciate the buildings around them more,” said Tara.

Addressing concerns about job shadow programs
For employers, offering a job shadow program has many benefits, but it can be challenging.

“We did a weeklong commitment, and that can be a lot for the employees—you have your everyday work and the added element of explaining what you do and ensuring the students are engaged and learning,” Tara said.

Being flexible on the program’s length can help to make the experience a positive one for everyone involved: “If a week is a lot, then consider a one-day job shadow. You can hit all the high points in a short amount of time. If a weeklong program once a year won’t work, then consider multiple one-day events throughout the year,” Tara said.

Lendy Cano Martinez 003

Photo courtesy of Rogers-O’Brien Construction.

Another concern is safety, so it’s important for employers creating a job shadow program to determine how participating youth can observe work being completed and learn something without having to be directly in harm’s way.

“There are a lot of things we do on a daily basis to make sure our jobsites are safe for the workers. When they are safe for the workers, then they can be safe for visitors, even high school students,” Tara said.

Creating a job shadow program can be challenging, but careful and considerate planning can produce an inspiring experience for students.

With job shadows, employers can connect with future workers now
Employers seeking to fill positions do so in the here and now, but companies with job shadow programs can connect with future workers years in advance.

“You want to find them early,” Tara said. “Otherwise, by the time we are ready to retire there won’t be any replacements. For example, a plumber on my project told me that not enough young people want to be plumbers, but it’s a necessary position in the construction as well as maintenance of a building. You must connect with young people now to inspire them to join your industry later.”

Exploring a Future as a Pharmacy Technician

23 Aug

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 started with a chance encounter with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Program at Goodwill Central Texas.

“After my graduation, I went to my high school to ask about my transcripts, and I saw my college counselor. She was the one who gave me information about the assistance at Goodwill,” Valerie said.

Valerie Martinez

Valerie Martinez

This was how Valerie found the 18-month pharmacy technician certification program, and it caught her attention: “It looked interesting, and I like learning something new and seeing new things. Most of my family is in the medical field, and I wanted to fit in with them, too,” she said.

Goodwill’s youth program assists youth living in Austin/Travis County with career readiness training and career counseling, GED preparation, and paid work experience. The program is funded through Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

Through this assistance, Valerie applied to Austin Community College’s Pharmacy Technician Program. She began her studies in August 2015. While attending ACC, Valerie worked as an intern at a pregnancy care center in South Austin.

Her family did not have the resources to support Valerie during the two years she studied, so the program’s assistance was invaluable: “I received school supplies, an internship, gas cards, help editing my resume, practice for answering interview questions, and a scholarship to help with my classes and books,” she said.

“I struggled a bit with the program. I had to retake a couple classes and stay up late to make sure I was caught up with the material for the next day. I was studying really hard for the exams and trying my best,” Valerie said.

“Valerie persisted despite having to retake a class she did not pass,” said Linda Kaufmann, a career case manager at Goodwill. “Despite this setback and a delayed graduation, she did not give up.”

Valerie earned her certification in August 2017: “Towards the end, I made new friends and we helped each other with what was needed. We formed study groups and made study packets for each other,” she said.

“Valerie’s ability to complete a lengthy and rigorous training program such as Pharmacy Technician is impressive. This achievement speaks to her grit and focus,” said Linda.

After earning her certification, Valerie began studying for her associate degree at ACC. In May 2018, Valerie began working as a pharmacy technician at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.

“At St. David’s, I answer the phones when the nurses call to ask for something for their patients, and make sure the control drugs are counted correctly and put in the right medication machine for the patients,” Valerie said.

“I am learning every day I go to the hospital, and I try my hardest in getting the work done as soon as possible and correctly. Some of my coworkers say that they see me as a hard worker,” she added.

For other young Austin residents who are thinking about their future but are unsure where to start, Valerie has some advice based on her own experience: “Looking back, I should have taken my time and asked for more help. Keep up the work and don’t try to rush into things,” she said. “It took me longer to finish my certificate because I was working at the pregnancy center while I was in school, and it was a little too much for me. But I did it, and now I enjoy working in the hospital.”

About WIOA Youth
WIOA Youth is part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program funded through Workforce Solutions Capital Area. 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 offers financial assistance to eligible individuals for job search assistance, training, and other support services.

Visit our WIOA page to learn more.