3-minute read

Good afternoon Workforce Solutions’ friends,

What’s happening in our Austin metro job market:

  • The local unemployment rate is lowest among major Texas metros at 5.1%, but it’s still nearly double our pre-pandemic levels. Tens of thousands remain out of work, mainly with uncertain prospects in their previous face-to-face industries (i.e., movie theaters, entertainment, hospitality).
  • Manufacturing drives Austin’s economic recovery: In the last 12 months ending December 2020, manufacturing had the second-highest annual growth (8.3%) of any major industry in the metro area. (More on this and our work to grow the talent pipeline next week. Feel free to reach out if you’d like more info.)
  • Child care is vital to recovery: Through additional CARES Act funding, WFS will continue to issue enhanced payments to child care providers to help them continue their essential services for the children of working families. (more below)
  • Opportunities and support available: In our metro area, we have at least 17,000 unemployed previously in face-to-face sector jobs. Refer a constituent or a friend to our no-cost rapid training program RE:WorkNOW. We offer safe, convenient virtual/hybrid trainings for high-paying jobs in Austin’s most in-demand industries, with supports available like child care and digital inclusion.
  • More Austin relocations: ZP Better Together, a California-based tech company that specializes in communication solutions for those who are hearing impaired, has relocated its headquarters to Austin.

📅  Feb 10: I hope you’ll share an opportunity for Austinites to explore a future in high-demand advanced manufacturing and skilled trades! Our next Workforce Wednesdayevent will highlight open positions and training opportunities like RE:WorkNOW and the Certified Production Technician (CPT) program. Big thanks to our special guests from the Sheet Metal Workers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee and Applied Materials, a global leader in materials engineering for the semiconductor industry. Register here.

🎙️ “The most enlightening thing about this is all the different skills I learned — a lot of things I was interested to learn about but never had the resources to begin.” — Brian Schwaegel, a RE:WorkNOW CPT grad, now employed at Samsung Austin Semiconductor.

In partnership, Tamara.


Catch up quick: COVID-19 workforce policy and funding changes

Because WFS is funded primarily through federal funds, either directly or passed through the Texas Workforce Commission, we follow the work of the Texas Congressional delegation on workforce and employment-related issues carefully.

State and local relief funding is a major component of the Biden Administration’s nearly $2T federal stimulus proposal focused on a return to full employment.

  • Previous CARES Act funds to the City of Austin and Travis County, which began about 120 days ago, funded Phase 1 of our rapid retraining initiative RE:WorkNOW
    • Phase 1 funding provides 260 full scholarships to city and county residents for rapid, safe training programs with long-term earning potential.
  • In the first 120 days of RE:WorkNOW, we’ve enrolled 146 trainees.
    • The average post-program wage increase for graduates that found employment is $20,086.
  • Potential Phase 2 funds to reskill more unemployed residents in slow-to-recover sectors could also come from an additional federal stimulus.

Relaunching America’s Workforce Act: House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott re-filed legislation to increase funding nationally for workforce development by $15B.

  • The increase in funding represented in this legislation comes after the previous Congress cut workforce training (Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act) funds by 15%.
    • WIOA is one of WFS’s most prominent funding sources. It’s designed to give job seekers personalized support and training needed to find a job at no cost.
    • Federal funding for these services was determined by regional economic health from June 2018 to July 2019.
  • Low-income adult workers and laid-off workers, who are most impacted by the pandemic and usually eligible for WIOA, are more so affected by these cuts as our capacity to support them decreases.

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Nominee Marty Walsh held his confirmation hearing Thursday in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

  • Committee Republicans are mostly expected to support Mr. Walsh’s nomination at the time of this writing.
  • If the Committee approves, the next step is a full Senate confirmation vote. The timeline of confirmation is linked to potential Senate deliberation on the federal stimulus and potential impeachment hearings.
  • If confirmed, Mr. 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.


‘The difference between a parent working or leaving the workforce’: TWC authorized continuing enhanced payments to encourage subsidized child care providers to stay open

TWC authorized an additional $81.5M in federal CARES Act funding to extend the 25% enhanced reimbursement rate for subsidized child care providers in Texas through July 2021.

Why it matters: Quality, affordable child care services are an essential part of our work to support parents in returning to work or learning new skill sets to pursue a new career.

Details: Enhanced reimbursement rate payments are an incentive TWC began in March to encourage providers to stay open and address increased operating costs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Previously, the Commission had approved $154M to support the enhanced reimbursement rate beginning in April. 
  • While the program was scheduled to end in December, child care providers continue to experience lower overall enrollment numbers and reduced tuition collection, while also maintaining fixed operational and administrative costs.

By the numbers: WFS has issued over $4.3M in enhanced reimbursement rate payments to 277 providers since March.

  • As of Jan 26, WFS has 2,444 children in our care and 42 families (64 children) on the waitlist.

What they’re saying:

  • Julian Alvarez, TWC Commissioner Representing Labor: “So many times, child care is the difference between a parent working or leaving the workforce. As jobs and opportunities open up, we want to help Texans take advantage of those opportunities by eliminating roadblocks to returning to the workforce.”

What else: The latest COVID-19 stimulus bill includes another round of PPP, as well as some improvements to the process. It also changes and extends other stimulus programs that could be beneficial for early care and education organizations.

  • We encourage all early learning programs to explore these programs if they need financial assistance.
  • Learn more on our blog.


Workforce Solutions Capital Area earns fourth consecutive “We Hire Vets” award

WFS is thankful to earn recognition for the fourth year in a row for committing to hiring veterans with the “We Hire Vets” award from TWC.

WFS became the first workforce board in the state of Texas to receive the “We Hire Vets” recognition in 2018. We are honored to receive this award for the fourth time this year.

  • The employer recognition program was launched in July 2017 by TWC with the Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Workforce Solutions Offices.
  • Employers whose workforce is composed of at least 10% military veterans are eligible for recognition.
  • 11% of our employees are veterans who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps with a combined 19 years of service.

The bottom line: Supporting Texas veterans is part of our mission.

  • Veterans receive priority for job and training referrals at our three Career Centers.
  • Career specialists at the centers are specifically trained to help veterans of the U.S. military achieve maximum employment and training opportunities.
  • Learn more about how we serve veterans here.
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