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Good afternoon Austin friends,
Find wonderful ways to celebrate MLK’s legacy in Austin.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue said Tuesday that a broad-based economic recovery in 2021 depends on immediate reskilling and worker support, as our economy continues to evolve rapidly. He says, “our lawmakers should fund rapid training programs to connect the unemployed with jobs in new sectors… Some of the best-paying sectors—such as health care or financial and professional services—have more job openings than available workers.” In the Austin metro, unemployment is still over 2x pre-pandemic levels. There are more workers available in hardest-hit leisure and hospitality than job openings. Several months ago, we realized that our training system needed a new option: rapid training. Thanks to financial backing from the City of Austin and Travis County, our community is an early adopter of a rapid training program (RE:WorkNOW) that connects sidelined workers to high-growth, high-pay jobs fast, at no cost, with a modest weekly stipend. But the real goal is to scale this model to meet the need in our community, to serve more people and provide more training opportunities and supports as the Austin economy rapidly digitizes.

What’s happening in the national and local job market:

  • Big picture: CNN reported earlier this month that the full number of U.S. workers who have been unemployed for six months is now 37% of the total national jobless population.
  • What to watch: President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his $1.9T COVID relief plan calling for $350B in state and local government aid, extended and enhanced unemployment benefits, and more. Clearly, we have some reading to do…
  • 📡 What else to watch: This coming Friday, TWC will release December’s unemployment tally for the Austin metro. The U.S. December jobs report has national unemployment steady at 6.7%, although shedding jobs for the first time since April. We hope to see a dip in the number of unemployed since TWC asserted that Austin’s rate rose to 5.9% or 74,345 jobless residents in November.
  • What we’re doing: We’re already seeing successes and trainees crossing the finish line in our RE:WorkNOW rapid training program model. (more below)

In partnership, Tamara.


COVID-19 halted David Arredondo’s college plans, but Workforce Solutions helped him land a job fast

David Arredondo graduated from John B. Connally High School (City of Austin, Pflugerville ISD) in 2020 with plans to begin his collegiate career as a soccer player.

  • 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 Shreiner’s season.
  • With finances a major consideration, attending university was no longer an immediate option for David.

What he did: David enrolled in a RE:WorkNOW training course at Skillpoint Alliance. In four weeks, he earned his electrical apprenticeship license safely and virtually,with financial support from WFS — including a weekly $200 stipend.

  • RE:WorkNOW is the no-cost rapid training program for unemployed/underemployed City of Austin and Travis County residents, launched by WFS.
  • In response to the workforce crisis, participating training providers have expanded rapid training programs in both remote and hybrid formats. 
  • Eligible enrollees may receive $200 weekly stipends, along with career advising, placement, childcare, digital inclusion, and more as needed and as funds are available.
  • Program graduates are connected to jobs in growing industries like IT, healthcare, skilled trades, and advanced manufacturing.
  • Have a friend or neighbor sign up today at reworknow.org/austin.

“Workforce Solutions Capital Area wanted to see me employed and become an electrician.”

David Arredondo

Why his case is unique: Before enrolling at Skillpoint, David had applied for jobless benefits but he wasn’t eligible.

  • David was thrilled to hear he qualified for $200 per week and a full training scholarship through RE:WorkNOW, just from being enrolled in the Skillpoint training.
  • The additional income and supports from WFS kept David on his feet while in training. “When I received the stipend, it felt like I got paid again,” David said. “It helped me in that whole month.”

David graduated on October 31. He received his industry-recognized certifications, including the Texas apprenticeship license and OSHA 10 license, to begin working in the field.  

  • He started his job of choice in December 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.
  • He credits the know-how to the training at Skillpoint and support from Workforce Solutions.

What they’re saying:

  • Kevin Brackmeyer, Skillpoint executive director: “[Our students’] persistence and commitment speak volumes to their work ethic and willingness to create a better life for themselves and their families.”
  • Hillary Silvas, career counselor at Workforce Solutions Capital Area: “The entire Workforce Solutions team wants to make sure that [unemployed Travis County residents] know we hear them and want to help.”
    • “The RE:WorkNOW program specializes in removing barriers to training and providing support along the way.”
  • David Arredondo: “Hillary told me how Workforce Solutions wanted to help me, how they can pay me for tools, and how they can pay me for gas money if I needed it to apply for jobs. They wanted to see me employed and become an electrician.”
  • Read more on our blog.

🔄 To learn more and apply, visit reworknow.org/austin. Space is limited, and enrollment into approved courses is handled first-come, first-served.


Damage from COVID-19 is concentrated among already challenged groups, low-wage workers

Ten months into the pandemic, low-income workers are still bearing the brunt of job losses — a harsh feature of the pandemic recession that flattened the economy last spring.

  • Since March, layoffs are heavily concentrated in face-to-face service industries across the country, which continues amid a resurgent pandemic.
  • The Leisure and Hospitality sector in Austin MSA is down 28,200 jobs (or -20.6%) over the past 12 months since November.

By the numbers: Unemployment for the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. is above 20%, a figure that Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said underscores the importance of policy help for the economy.

  • Unemployment in the top wage category is less than 5%.

Yes, and: Unemployment also impacts people of color more acutely. 

  • When unemployment in Austin MSA was 5.1% in October 2020, Black unemployment was 8%. The Hispanic rate was at 5.6%, while the rate for Whites was 4.4%.
  • A new analysis also finds that Latino and Black children are 2x more likely to experience three or more economic and health related hardships as a result of the pandemic.
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