Dear community stakeholders, leaders, partners, and friends:
“Workforce Solutions North Texas is the best kept secret in town!” is something I’ve heard time and time again. In an effort to better serve our community, we are introducing the Workforce Re$ource blog as a new avenue to keep you informed, highlight local experts, showcase success stories, and dive deeper into our programs and team! As a kickoff to our new blog, I want to first highlight what the Workforce Solutions North Texas team accomplished in 2020 in the face of adversity.
On January 1, 2020, I began as Executive Director for Workforce Solutions North Texas with big dreams and an eagerness for leading our organization to new heights and possibilities! The year began like any other, however I could never have predicted the truly historic turn the year 2020 would take nor the impact our work would have and the challenges we would face mere days and weeks into the job.
To begin my new role as Executive Director, my top priority was to gain a deeper understanding of our 11 counties and make sure we were meeting the needs of the communities therein. In January and February of 2020, I attended chamber of commerce banquets and annual meetings across our 11-county region. I took advantage of these gatherings and the platform they provided to engage with potential partners. This 11-county tour through the communities we serve opened opportunities to connect with business leaders in a casual setting who otherwise may not have been familiar with the services offered by Workforce Solutions North Texas.
In late February of 2020, COVID-19 hit the United States, and in early March, we were faced with community infections within our Workforce Development Area. Noone could have anticipated the level of disruption and challenges this pandemic would bring, however we weathered the transition quite well all things considered. With the infiltration of COVID-19 in our community, all at once Workforce operations, the local economy, and our way of life were flipped on their head. As infections spread into our footprint, without hesitation, we began taking steps to ensure the safety of our customers and staff. We were tasked with completely changing our service delivery method from in-person to virtual services when stay at-home orders were recommended. All staff transitioned to virtual service delivery to continue assisting the communities we serve as unemployment exponentially increased and many reliably recruiting employers stopped hiring almost overnight. We were able to mobilize our resources quickly and still provide the highest level of service to our customers, partners, and communities. Getting this done amid shortages of just about any necessary supply brought forth a whole new appreciation for “thinking outside the box,” but we pooled our resources and were able to make it happen—and quickly!
In the following months after the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S., we were able to take advantage of several additional funding initiatives to address the impact of COVID-19. The first initiative allowed us to modify areas of our workforce centers to make them safe for both staff and customers. This included installing hands-free temperature kiosks, plexiglass windows for the reception area, and electrostatic disinfectant systems for all of our office locations. These upgrades gave us the peace of mind and ability to reopen our Workforce Centers on an appointment basis while keeping our staff and customers safe.
We also received $250,000 in Skills Development funding to assist local businesses who had been impacted by COVID-19. Affected business partners were able to receive funding to retool and retrain staff to meet the demands COVID-19 had imposed on their workplace and/or industry. Training was targeted to those business partners retooling business processes to respond to the shortage of COVID-19-related supplies, as well as those business restructuring to provide continued employment to employees or any other educational need related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as safety and sanitation training.
Over the course of the year, we have had many successes in our dedication to the customers and communities we serve. We have provided drive-thru job fairs to our customers for a modified in-person experience as well as virtual job fairs to those unable to attend in-person as an innovative way to connect job seekers to employers, fulfilling both their hiring needs. We also offered virtual workshops and tutorials to customers to assist in preparing for these atypical types of employer interactions including virtual interview etiquette and resume writing.
Providing childcare for families who are employed or in training is crucial to success. Many families were faced with a shortage of childcare options as stay-at-home orders flexed and waned, and as employers and training providers shifted their businesses to meet the new business models required to comply with COVID-19 regulations, sometimes without the ability to flex to include families. The COVID-19 pandemic also created financial challenges for childcare employers as well. We were able to distribute over $1 million in enhanced reimbursement rates to childcare providers throughout our 11 counties to allow these centers to remain open and to provide a continuation of care to their children during these uncertain times.
Childcare for essential workers was in critical need early in the COVID-19 pandemic for our region and across the state. We were able to provide childcare for 526 children of essential workers at no cost to them from April to July 2020.
Additionally, we were able to provide personal protective equipment and supplies to childcare centers such as hand sanitizer, no touch thermometers, sanitizing wipes, gloves, face masks, and antibacterial hand soap. These supplies allowed for necessary safeguards to be met for both staff and children.
As you can see, although we were faced with many challenges over the course of the year, we rose to the occasion and provided solutions to continue our mission of connecting job seekers and employers and supporting workers through childcare. I am incredibly proud and humbled by the way our team pulled together and met the challenges head-on to minimize the disruption of the services we offer. We will continue to evolve and adapt to the everchanging demands and needs of the workforce as we move forward.
We all are eager and ready to return to the office 100% and look forward to a brighter 2021. Thank you for trusting us to be your resource for your employment needs and allowing us to serve your community!