Austin’s job growth proves we live in one of the most resilient economies in the nation. But, as is happening across the country, it’s a competitive market for workers.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s (WFS) main focus this year is the skills gap. In our analysis, the skills gap is one of the biggest contributors to the current labor shortage, along with the ongoing fear of COVID and the need for quality child care.

This is why WFS is here: to ensure there are more workers with the skills needed for quality jobs. We also work with local employers to help them hire, train, and retain skilled workers.

Over the last five years across all WFS local programs, clients experienced a total increase in earnings of $118 million after completing their programs. These higher earnings are made possible through newly acquired skills and supports like child care, transportation, and more to help bridge the gaps. 

Here are a few areas WFS board members will be watching in the workforce as our economy continues to evolve rapidly…

Career pathways for students:

  • Melanie Flowers, VP of business strategy and corporate partnerships at Nepris: “I am looking to continue building industry-focused partnerships with CTE pathways for students that want to go directly to work and for students that want to go directly to college.
    • “I am also looking for innovative ways to collect and report current and real-time workforce data for the state and regions, including data on residents that move to the state.”
  • Annette Tielle, DVISD superintendent: “Business partners and school districts need to work together to create curriculum for students for specific jobs. If students have opportunities to be adequately trained for a job, they will be more likely to pursue that job.
    • “Secondly, many economically disadvantaged students need to work while in high school in order to support their families. If those students could enter paid internships/apprenticeships, then they could support their families while in high school, learn a trade, and pursue the trade post-graduation.”
  • Joe Cooper, training director at Local 286: “I’m looking forward to pathways from high school to registered apprenticeship.”

Attracting interest in tech/manufacturing careers:

  • Dave Parks, CEO at enChoice: “Technology is advancing much more quickly than companies can consume or leverage. This presents a huge challenge to businesses needing to change quickly or risk being automated out of business. I believe this opens opportunities for our younger workforce, who do not consider themselves technical but are driving these technology automation trends. They can become a part of the solution for the ‘modernize-or-die’ business dilemma because knowing old technology is not a prerequisite anymore.
    • “I believe today’s younger generation will be able to absorb and provide benefit to tomorrow’s innovations if we can get them involved and trained without requiring college degrees.”
  • Eddie Chien, senior director of human resources at Luminex: “One of the biggest issues we face is how to effectively attract prospective employees, especially with the cost of living in the region such a big concern.”

Remote work:

  • Dave Parks, CEO at enChoice: “Technology jobs are more likely to provide remote work capability. [Remote work] opens up new opportunities to an expanded workforce, including those with travel to work challenges, children at home, and disabilities.”
  • Michael Marler, vocational rehabilitation manager at Texas Workforce Solutions: “As a workforce representative of workers with disabilities, I am watching for increased and better-paying opportunities for virtual employment for well-qualified workers with disabilities who have physical challenges in a traditional work environment.
    • “During the last two years, as much of the workforce has moved toward virtual employment, workers with disabilities have begun to experience an increase in opportunities for employment that they have not always had. We are also watching for increased opportunities for accessible training in high-demand areas that would benefit workers with disabilities.”

Bottom line: WFS is ensuring the region has more workers with skills, as well as higher wages for those who skill up and for those entering training at the lowest levels of income.

What’s next: To address skills gaps, equity gaps, and affordability concerns in our community, WFS is on the verge of launching the next phase of the Community Workforce Plan: Austin’s Hire Local Plan.

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