In this letter: My thoughts — with a local lens — on President Biden’s address to county officials at the National Association of Counties 2022 Legislative Conference.
📍 ICYMI: Workforce Solutions leadership convened with TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez and industry leaders for a healthcare apprenticeship roundtable.
- This think-tank-style discussion focused on how industry and education can partner to more efficiently train registered nurses in the state and address our labor shortage.
🎙️“We’re excited to share best practices across the state of Texas and learn from our colleagues in other areas to solve this challenge we’re facing across our organizations with finding talent.” — Mark Sherry, regional HR director at Baylor Scott & White Health and board vice-chair at WFS.
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1 big thing: Thoughts on President Biden’s address to county officials
On Monday, President Joe Biden delivered remarks to bipartisan county officials from across the country at the National Association of Counties 2022 Legislative Conference.
What happened: The President lauded local governments for utilizing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to “build a future around the working people who make up the communities they run.”
- ARPA allocated $350B to state and local budgets to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.
Why it matters: Local governments have used this federal funding to help workers get off the sidelines and connect residents with higher-paying jobs.
Zoom in: To respond at the scale of need in our community and address unaffordability, the City of Austin and Travis County have joined to grant a combined $12.3M through ARPA for the continuation of RE:WorkNOW, a rapid response workforce development program administered by Workforce Solutions Capital Area (WFS).
- With the additional ARPA funds, WFS expects to scale and expand the scope of programmatic offerings under RE:WorkNOW, with a goal to serve 1,000 residents over the next two years.
Flashback: RE:WorkNOW Phase I launched Fall 2020 in response to the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, thanks to a $3.1M joint investment from the City of Austin and Travis County through CARES Act funding.
- Phase I aimed to provide short-term, safe, no-cost job training to Austin-Travis County residents economically impacted by COVID.
- Phase II will continue its mission of connecting residents to quality training and job placement in high-demand industries such as IT, healthcare, skilled trades, and manufacturing.
- Of note: Phase II has not started yet but is scheduled to begin in Q1 of 2022.
Bottom line: I’m deeply grateful for our local government’s investments in workforce development and continued confidence in WFS.
- WFS’ focus remains to ensure there are more workers with the skills needed for quality jobs.
⬇️ Below are three examples of how WFS has used federal funds to impact Austin-Travis County workers lives’…
2. COVID halted David Arredondo’s college plans, but Workforce Solutions helped him land a job fast
Despite COVID-19 interfering with his playoff-bound high school soccer season, David impressed college coaches and was slated to join Schreiner University’s soccer team roster. Then David learned COVID-19 would also put an end to Schreiner’s season.
- With finances a major consideration, attending university was no longer an immediate option for David.
What he did: David enrolled in a new rapid training program called RE:WorkNOW, made possible with an investment from the City of Austin and Travis County through CARES Act funding.
- In four weeks, he earned his electrical apprenticeship license safely, virtually, and at no cost.
- David also received additional financial support from WFS to bridge the gaps, including a $200 weekly stipend while he trained.
He started his job of choice in December 2020 at Beckett Electrical, a commercial and construction contractor, earning $32K-37K.
- David hit the ground running and says he had proved his aptitude in the trade on day one.
3. Partnering with Saffron Trust Women’s Foundation to employ Austinites and feed families in need
In September 2020, WFS began participating in the federal National Dislocated Worker Grant (NDWG), which is a disaster-relief temporary employment program to assist residents who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
- NDWG provides dedicated funds to cities and states to help respond to the pandemic recovery effort. These funds help offset payroll costs for organizations doing humanitarian work related directly to the pandemic.
By the numbers:
- $1,145,890: That’s the combined total in wages that 98 Central Texans who participated in the NDWG program have earned in the 12 months ending October 2021.
What they’re saying: One participating organization is Saffron Trust, which delivers food to families in need. Since joining DRTE in January 2021, Saffron Trust has had 24 participants who have earned a combined $308,000 in wages.
- Phyllis Everette, founder of Saffron Trust: “Our partnership with Workforce Solutions allowed us to boost economic opportunity for the families in a time of national crisis.”
4. Shelley Lefebvre pays it forward by giving back
A criminal record is a large barrier to securing employment and housing, but Shelley Lefebvre did not give up.
- “My first contact with Workforce Solutions came about in a way that was unfortunate. I had gotten in some trouble and went through a treatment program,” Shelley said.
How we helped: While in an Austin Area Urban League (AAUL) program for formerly-incarcerated individuals who have experienced exclusion and barriers, Shelley learned about a new service offered by WFS for residents who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
- Shelley began working at AAUL temporarily also through the federal National Dislocated Worker Grant (NDWG) program.
- Her background in teaching as well as lived experiences and drive led her to be hired as a Case Manager to assist other Central Texans experiencing the same events that she has.
What they’re saying: Programs like NDWG “are game-changers for many of us,” Shelley said.
- “To me, it’s a miracle. I made choices that changed my life, and it takes time to climb out.
- “The beauty and the miracle in that climb is to now be in a position to use that experience to help someone else who will undoubtedly experience many of the same barriers that I faced.”