Welcome back, readers!
Today we continue our celebration of Workforce Awareness Month by asking the question, How can community-based literacy programs partner with their local Workforce Development Board to galvanize student success?
To help us properly answer this question, we reached out to several of our regional partners who are members of their local Board. If you recall from our first post in this series, the Texas Workforce Commission mandates that each Workforce Development Board include representatives from community-based organizations, as well as higher education providers. Adult literacy is guaranteed a seat at the table! But what does this look like in practice?
South Texas Workforce Partnership
Dr. Ida Acuña-Garza is the Executive Director of the South Texas Literacy Coalition (STLC). If that name sounds familiar, it may be because she was also the host of the South Texas Literacy Symposium in Edinburg this January. In addition to her work with the STLC, Dr. Acuña-Garza is an appointed member of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Workforce Development Board. This board represents Workforce Region 23 (check out their website here).
The process of induction to a Workforce Development Board includes a formal recommendation by a county official to the governor of Texas. Dr. Acuña-Garza’s came in the form of an invitation from the Chief Elected Officer of the Lower Rio Board about six years ago. Since Dr. Acuña-Garza’s appointment, she has collaborated with workforce partners in the Rio Grande Valley on many exciting projects.
Community Partnerships for Success
The partnership between the South Texas Literacy Coalition and Lower Rio Grande Valley Workforce Solutions has been fruitful. Dr. Acuña-Garza assisted in the Spanish translation of employer manuals that featured team- and skill-building exercises for employees. Additionally, her work with the Board gave her the opportunity to speak on the importance of family literacy to about 500 daycare workers during a conference.
Being involved with the Board provides many other opportunities for involvement in the community. One that Dr. Acuña-Garza is particularly excited about is the 2017 Youth Career Expo, where the South Texas Literacy Coalition will have a table and will distribute 700 books and other workforce preparation materials to high school students.
The STLC is a valued member of workforce readiness initiatives in the Rio Grande Valley. The organization was recently the beneficiary of a Workforce Solutions employee fundraiser: they presented Dr. Acuña-Garza and the STLC board with a $1725 check! Dr. Acuña-Garza reports that this will put 700 books into the hands of adult learners.
Every Board is Different
Dr. Acuña-Garza cautions that, while every regional board is structured similarly, they often operate in very different ways. The Lower Rio Board is highly collaborative with community partners like the South Texas Literacy Coalition, but collaborating with Boards will look different from region to region.
If you’re not sure where to start, Dr. Acuña-Garza recommends inviting your local Workforce Solutions staff to your next community event. For example, Lower Rio Workforce Solutions was an exhibitor at the South Texas Literacy Symposium. Another way to initiate the relationship is to invite Workforce Solutions staff to speak to your students or volunteers. This is a great way to connect your students with resources, especially if you don’t have the capacity to teach a separate job skills class.
Speaking of class, our next blog will focus on bringing workforce preparation into your classroom! Bookmark this page if you haven’t already, and we’ll see you next Wednesday.