3-minute read

Good afternoon Austin friends,

President-Elect Joseph Biden nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to serve as the next Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, Walsh would step into the job at one of the most critical points in history for American labor, with millions of people out of work and facing the loss of jobless benefits. At the request of Austin Mayor Steve Adler, I have been a participant and board member on the U.S. Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council since 2017. It is a promising sign that the voices of mayors and local workforce boards may be more prominent as the Administration looks at significant potential changes to funding distribution, innovation around policy support for the future of work, and as Congress looks to reauthorize our primary workforce laws — the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) — in 2021.

What’s happening now for our friends and neighbors in the Austin metro job market: Opportunity is tempered by still-high unemployment.

  • Big picture: Area employers posted 7,423 new jobs posted in the Austin metro from December 20, 2020 – January 2, 2021. That’s 4,769fewer compared to the same period a year prior. In Travis County, weekly initial claims for jobless benefits are about 2.5 times our pre-pandemic average. So our biggest workforce challenge is encouraging people currently on the sidelines to train for new opportunities.
  • Opportunity:RE:WorkNOW, a no-cost, rapid job training program backed by the City of Austin and Travis County funding, connects graduates to high-growth industries like IT, healthcare, skilled trades, and advanced manufacturing. Please help us spread the word.
  • Opportunity: New Austin Chamber chair Nikki Graham is upbeat on Austin’s prospects for pandemic recovery, featured in an articlewritten by Bob Sechler for Austin-American Statesman. Graham spoke on this and the importance of workforce training efforts — with partners like Workforce Solutions Capital Area — to help people get back on their feet.
  • Opportunity: Elon Musk’s Neuralink Corp. has posted a job opening on its website for a “head of construction” in Austin. If the position is filled, this will mark the fourth of Elon Musk’s companies to put roots down in Texas.

📅 Over 200 students and job seekers have already registered for our first Workforce Wednesday webinar on January 13 to hear about our training opportunities and in-demand jobs in Austin. We’ll also be joined each month by a featured employer who’ll share info about current job openings and how to connect to employment with their company (this month, it’s Marriot and Austin newcomer Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants). We’ll hold these webinars on the second Wednesday of every month. Please share with your network and those you feel will benefit from this event. Register here.

In partnership, Tamara.


Nominations open for the 2021 Upskilling HEROES Award

Workforce Solutions Capital Area partners with over 3,000 local businesses to invest in Central Texas workforce development efforts. But we know that’s just a drop in the bucket. 

  • Virtually every employer in our region faces unprecedented challenges in recruiting, retaining, and developing a skilled workforce. 

The solution is upskilling: Austin companies are leading the way by implementing upskilling strategies that provide pathways for long-term economic growth for their business, employees, and community.

  • Why it works: Once on the job, upskilling can turn an entry-level position into a long-term career with better wages. 
    • By allowing internal employees to advance, upskilling can open up new positions for others!

WFS recognizes and promotes companies utilizing upskilling as a practical and actionable strategy to address critical hiring needs and skills gaps, creating a steady pipeline of pre-vetted talent for their company.

  • We recently distinguished 5 companies as the 2020 Upskilling HEROES, and your company could be considered for the 2021 Upskilling HEROES award.

🔴 Nominate your company today by completing the Upskilling Survey.

  • Whether you already upskill or you want to add upskilling to your talent solutions toolkit, your company can be recognized as a cultivating place to work while helping to increase and improve community efforts to support and affect local change.
  • To learn more about the Upskilling Survey, visit the micrositeYou can also reach out to me with any questions.

Worth your time: Watch the latest American Graduate episode from our friends at Austin PBS to hear about upskilling options across career pathways.

  • Even amid the pandemic, Central Texas still has a high demand for jobsin healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, and a variety of skilled trades. 
  • Hear how upskilling is being offered to Central Texas employees from an Upskilling HEROES award recipient in the railroad industry, Austin Western Railroad (AWRR).

What they’re saying: 

  • Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief at WorkingNation: “Even before the pandemic, there were seven million open jobs in the country. According to many employers, the reason is they couldn’t find the right people with a match to the job skills they were looking for.”
  • Sabari Raja, WFS board member and CEO at Nepris: “Healthcare companies like Ascension Seton and Patient’s Premiere Choice, they are all putting in so much effort in upskilling their current employees.”
    • As they’re upskilling more of their employees, there are more opportunities for entry-level positions being created.”
  • Anthony Hoyte, general manager at AWRR: “The best way to do business is having people know they’re part of something bigger.”
  • Delmer Armentrout, roadmaster at AWRR, who started as a track laborer: “It takes a lot of pressure off you when you have financial security and people are training you to upskill.”


Austin Regional Manufacturing Association recognizes Workforce Solutions CEO with Friend of Manufacturing Award

I was honored to have received the Friend of Manufacturing Award by Austin Regional Manufacturing Association (ARMA). I’m thankful for the WFS team’s leadership, industry-leading partners in the association, and ARMA for recognizing Workforce Solutions and choosing me as a winner.

  • Every year, ARMA recognizes one company and individuals outside of manufacturing who contribute to the sector’s success.
  • Other 2020 honors recipients include Samsung Austin Conductor, Austin Community College District Chancellor Dr. Richard Rhodes, and Three Point Partners president Trey Salinas.

What they’re saying: 

  • Ed Latson, ARMA executive director and WFS Board Member (via award announcement):“As the CEO of the Workforce Board in Travis County, Tamara Atkinson continues to invest in manufacturing programs that add value to companies and the region. The investment includes providing resources for a joint partnership between Workforce Solutions and ARMA that addresses workforce issues. This partnership has trained over 75 people in 2020, launched a campaign to promote manufacturing to youth, and administered a $150,000 grant to provide supervisor training to ARMA members.
    • “Her spirit of collaboration sets the tone for the workforce initiatives in the region.”
  • Read more on our blog.

The numbers: This award is motivation to continue the success that the association and local manufacturing community saw in the past year, even in the face of an economic crisis.

  • There’s been positive growth over the last 12 months (6.9% or 4,300 jobs) for the Austin metro’s manufacturing sector as of November.

The bottom line: As the trusted advisor for connecting local people to local jobs, expectations are high for Workforce Solutions. 

  • WFS will stand unwavering by our mission for better jobs, better services, and better lives for all Travis County neighbors.
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