3-minute read

Good afternoon Austin friends,

I extend my warmest wishes on what feels like the coldest and longest weeks all year. I heard from many at WFS and my peers, and your hardships, grit, and gratitude for the small things (that are really essential things) overwhelm me with admiration. 

And shout out to WFS’ IT team who kept our network running, allowing our three career centers to stay open remotely last week as we continue to serve local job seekers, employers, parents, and children.

What’s happening in the U.S. and our Austin metro job market:

  • Scores of U.S. jobs in retail and hospitality may be gone forever. McKinsey Global Institute experts say many of these “face-to-face” sector jobs will be replaced with higher-skilled fields like healthcare and tech. Across the globe, countries now face the task of training huge portions of their populations.
  • Continuing rise of long-term unemployment: The U.S. long-term unemployment rate (measuring the share of the labor force that has been jobless for 27 weeks or more but is actively looking for work) is 2.5%, comparable to the 3.5% overall unemployment rate in January 2020. Restaurant workers, flight attendants, retail workers, and more aren’t sure when the pandemic will end — or if their employers will even survive it.
  • ‘The Samsung effect’: Ed Latson, executive director of Austin Regional Manufacturing Association, says a potential Samsung reinvestment would position Austin “to be at the cutting-edge of chipmaking technology for the next 25 years.” Austin Chamber president and CEO Laura Huffman says “a plant of this magnitude would create thousands of jobs in every field you can imagine.” 
  • Manufacturing major driver of Austin’s economy: Austin Mayor Steve Adler andI spoke with Austin Monitor about how a potential Samsung deal could further boost middle-skill jobs for the already high-growth industry.
  • Through the RE:WorkNOW rapid training model, WFS and partners like Skillpoint Alliance offer safe, convenient courses for high-paying jobs in Austin’s most in-demand industries (tech, healthcare, skilled trades, and manufacturing), with supports available like child care and digital inclusion. (more below)

📢 Also, I’m honored that the Community Advancement Network(CAN) recently elected me Vice-Chair. CAN is a partnership of diverse area organizations that leverage mutual resources to collectively improve our community’s social, health, educational, and economic opportunities. With this election, I will join the leadership team at CAN, becoming Chair in 2022. 

I look forward to the work to ensure that our community is a place where all people work together to achieve their full potential and celebrate their lives.

🎙️ “Given the extensive disruption to employment, an inclusive recovery depends on the ability of vulnerable workers to return to work safely, gain new skills where needed, and find stable new jobs where possible.” — McKinsey February report on achieving an inclusive economic recovery.

In partnership, Tamara.


‘Most students will get jobs right out of the gate’: Austinites can get paid to train for a new career

spoke with KVUE’s Erica Proffer last week on how our rapid, digital, safe skills training model helps sidelined workers quickly get the skills to get back to work. We also have many additional opportunities available for City of Austin and Travis County residents.

Driving the news: Skillpoint Alliance, a nonprofit skilled trades and manufacturing program, partnered with WFS, City of Austin, and Travis County in the RE:WorkNOW program.

  • RE:WorkNOW provides no-cost, rapid training courses aligned with industry expectations that will result in high-demand jobs at higher wages.
  • Applicants can match their skills to a new career with just a few clicks. Then, WFS helps them find the right training program.
  • Phase 1 was approved by Travis County and the City of Austin in October 2020. The idea is part of the Austin Metro Community Workforce Plan, which would help 10,000 local people get jobs paying more than $40K a year.

Why it matters: Central Texas employers need entry-level electricians.

  • When Skillpoint sends students to their apprenticeships, they have a leg up on others because they know how to install all the basic electrical components on a job site.
  • The new salary of November graduate David Arredondo — also a 2020 Connally High School graduate — who was hired by Beckett Electrical is $36,500.

What they’re saying:

  • Kevin Brackmeyer, Skillpoint Alliance executive director: “If history is any indicator, most of our students will get jobs right out of the gate.”
    • “We’ve had an employer hire everybody [at our program graduation] on the spot one time.” 
  • Ricardo Gill worked in the oil fields and is from Austin: “I lost my job in April and needed to find something.”
  • Brandon Sutton said his reason for taking the class was for another person in his life: “My daughter. She’s my biggest motivation.”

▶️  Watch the story here.

The big picture: RE:WorkNOW focuses on four workhorse industry sectors of Central Texas: tech, health care, advanced manufacturing, and skilled trades. 

  • Of note: More Skillpoint apprenticeships and trainings provided through RE:WorkNOW include HVAC, nurse aide, plumbing, and Certified Production Technician. 

To qualify for RE:WorkNOW, workers must be unemployed or underemployed due to COVID.

  • This program can pay eligible students up to $200 per week to get training.  
    • WFS can also cover childcare and transportation costs if needed. 
  • Safe, virtual learning is at the heart of RE:WorkNOW.
    • Skillpoint sends each student home with a kit that includes all items a student would use in class.
  • Skillpoint’s electrical program usually costs $4K-6K, but it’s free for anyone who lost their job due to the pandemic.
    • Skillpoint’s electrician class runs for four weeks.

The bottom line: This is about helping our neighbors who are in struggling industries have what they need to make ends meet and then be able to support themselves through that next, more in-demand job.

What’s next: RE:WorkNOW will end when it reaches 260 people. Fewer than 90 spots remain.

  • For RE:WorkNOW to continue, Phase 2 would need $67M in funding to make a dramatic impact sufficient to help thousands of additional local people who lost jobs amid the pandemic to train and start a new career.


🏆 WFS receives 2020 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Career Pathways Award

Last week, the Texas Workforce Commission honored WFS with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Career Pathways Award for 2020!

Capital Area is one of four boards selected for this performance award, based on the percentage of:

  • Adult dislocated workers and youth participants in training;
  • Increase of participants in training; and
  • Training participants in training-related employment.

But, but, but: The WIOA program — one of WFS’s most prominent funding sources — was reduced for FY21 by 15.1% on October 1, 2020. 

  • Federal funding for these services is determined by regional economic health from June 2018 to July 2019.

Why it matters: Many Travis County residents are still seeking work or training opportunities at a volume higher than before the pandemic. But our financial resources have been further stretched.

  • Offered at no cost for participants, WIOA is designed to give job seekers personalized support and training needed to find a job. 
  • To ensure trainees find jobs, WIOA provides funding for training in occupations with proven earning potential in growing industries in Travis Co, such as auto mechanics, computer support specialists, and nurses. 
    • WIOA-funded training is provided by a wide variety of certified training providers in Travis Co.

The bottom line: Low-income adult workersand laid-off workers living in Travis Co, who are usually eligible for WIOA and are most impacted by the pandemic, are more so affected as our capacity to support them decreases.

  • 50% of the 167K+ jobless claimants in Travis Countysince March previously earned less than $30K. 75% made less than $50K.
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