Introducing: Workforce Development Boards

Welcome, one and all, to WAM!
At Literacy Texas, we’re always looking for ways to connect community-based adult literacy programs with resources to propel adult learners to success in the classroom and beyond. We created Workforce Awareness Month to shine a light on one aspect of that success: workforce preparedness. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be exploring ways that adult educators can partner with local workforce efforts in their regions.

Adult Education is Workforce-Oriented
Most adult literacy providers would agree that their students need to be prepared to navigate the workforce. The push for workforce readiness was the driving factor behind the transfer of Adult Education and Literacy from the Texas Education Agency to the Texas Workforce Commission. Today’s students are learning to read, write, and speak English in order to acquire jobs, negotiate higher wages, and access training opportunities that will increase their economic stability.

Where do community-based literacy programs fit into this equation? Local literacy organizations have a unique opportunity to join the conversation between business owners, community leaders, and local decision-makers. In fact, community-based programs already have a seat at the table!

Workforce Development in Texas
Texas is divided into 28 Workforce Development Regions. Each region is headed by a Workforce Development Board, a nonprofit board of directors answerable to the Texas Workforce Commission. Boards oversee grants to local Workforce Solutions offices, assess regional workforce needs, and develop programs and services to address those needs.

The public’s point of contact is through Workforce Solutions offices. These offices use Workforce Investment Act funds to help job-seekers secure employment. They also subsidize childcare costs for eligible parents.

Each Board operates differently, and Workforce Solutions programs focus on workforce needs unique to their respective regions. Let’s look at the Coastal Bend board directory. This board directory delineates the types of representatives (private sector, community-based organization, etc) and shows us the typical makeup of a Workforce Development Board. Representatives come from private businesses, public assistance agencies, school districts, and community-based organizations.

One of the advantages of having such a diverse mix of professionals in the same room is that it facilitates communication between industries that would not otherwise cross paths. As adult literacy providers know, literacy touches all aspects of a person’s life. Often, educational services are fragmented, and this prevents efficient service delivery. This has prompted the development of literacy coalitions and organizations like Literacy Texas. Workforce Development Boards occupy a similar role of connecting services across professional and geographical lines.

Next Steps: Partnering with a Workforce Development Board
From the TWC website (emphasis ours):

“The majority of each Board is represented by members of the local business community. In all, Board membership includes individuals representing business and industry, economic development agencies, community-based organizations, education, organized labor, public assistance agencies and more.”

Every Workforce Development Board is required to have a representative from community-based programs, and many of Literacy Texas’ partners occupy that role in their local boards. Next week’s blog post will feature interviews with these partners, as well as actions you can take to partner with your Workforce Development Board!

Click here for a list of all 28 Workforce Development Board websites.

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