To help build a highly skilled workforce in Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) offers programs like the Skills Development Fund (SDF). This upskilling program provides site-specific, customized training opportunities for Texas businesses and their employees. In 2020, TWC launched the SDF COVID-19 Special Initiative to provide companies rapid training as the workforce shifted. One company seeking to increase skill levels and wages with the SDF Special Initiative is MoboTrex.

MoboTrex is a manufacturing and distribution company for traffic control products. The company is headquartered in Iowa and has facilities around the country, with the primary manufacturing facility in Austin. At this location, MoboTrex builds everything from traffic and pedestrian signals to cabinets for electronics. More than 100 people work at the Austin facility.

Leveraging SDF for virtual supervisory training
In 2020, MoboTrex applied for a Supervisor Training grant through SDF, with assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area and Austin Regional Manufacturers Association. Four employees graduated the training in February 2021. MoboTrex values internal training and continued to offer it to employees despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Staci Lange, Chief Operating Officer.

The doors for this opportunity first opened in fall 2020 when Staci was contacted by Amber Warne, Director of Upskilling and Advancement for Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

“Our busy season had just wrapped up and I thought this was great because we have a number of workers who can use this training,” Staci said. “We had stopped training when COVID19 hit, so I asked if we could do this later. Amber said yes and set it up. She was very helpful with the forms and made this a seamless process.”

The trainer contacted Staci to help schedule the training and prepare all materials in advance. “Initiating a training usually requires more administrative overhead, but this was seamless,” Staci said.

Upskilling teams at no cost
The supervisory training was held virtually over eight weeks—four hours a day, two days a week by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC). Topics included how to manage employees and what operations supervisors need to know day-to-day.

“The feedback I got from those who participated was positive,” Staci said. “They said they learned a lot.”

The pandemic had forced businesses like MoboTrex to pause employee development initiatives like supervisory training, but with SDF and assistance from Workforce Solutions, the initiatives could resume.

What would MoboTrex have done if this funding wasn’t available?

“We probably wouldn’t have been able to offer the training. We have a nice training facility onsite, but we shut down most of our training for social distancing,” Staci said.

“If you don’t have internal resources, or due to COVID you can’t use them in a regular manner, then the remote nature of this training will be particularly helpful. If you are onboarding your supervisors and they need training, then it is something to look at,” said Staci.

“So much of our training is an interactive process. We want to grow and develop our employees, not just check off a box,” said Staci.

“If other opportunities to upskill our team at no cost present themselves, we are definitely interested in pursuing them. We appreciate the offer: it was well received and a well-done investment.”

Upgrade your workforce’s skills with Workforce Solutions Capital Area
Is your organization seeking no-cost opportunities to sharpen your workers’ skills? Workforce Solutions can help! Visit our Employee Skills Training page to start and download your copy of the Upskilling Toolkit to learn how upskilling your employees can help develop your talent!

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