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May 18, 2020

Why Texas and Missouri Are Turning to IT Training During Unemployment Crisis

Due to the pandemic, states are dealing with unprecedented and staggering unemployment numbers.  Texas has more than 1.8 million and Missouri has nearly 600,000 people out of work. Both states realized they needed to revise the way they work and re-evaluate the programs they provide and quickly shifted to virtual workforce development services. With more than 500,000 open tech jobs each quarter, they are promoting a career in IT as a way for people to re-enter the workplace and build new careers.


Software developer applications, computer applications and all other IT occupations are among the top 20 most in demand jobs in Texas, Julian Alvarez, Commissioner, representing Texas Workforce Commission shared during a recent video discussion with CompTIA on reskilling the workforce. One of their first steps was to work with the boards about being more flexible on how they can use funding from the Texas legislature and federal partners.


“We are figuring out how to repurpose funding and rethink how to use skill development funds,” Dale Robertson, Director, Workforce Initiatives with the Texas Workforce Commission, explained. “We are working with community colleges and workforce boards across the state to provide funding to allow them to be more responsive in the short term. Training needs are different and the delivery is going to be different.” 


This won’t be a short-term process however. Robertson expects they will be working on this for the foreseeable future. And, he anticipates as colleges come back online, they along with workforce boards will start reaching out to businesses and their employees who have been laid off or furloughed to provide training and support to help them get back to work.


Similarly in Missouri, they’ve been focused on moving all services to be virtual. Mardy Leathers, Director, Workforce Development, State of Missouri explained they have 100% virtualized their services and plan to do so for the foreseeable future. Unemployment in Missouri went from about 3.6% to 19.1% in a very short period. “We know some is temporary, but the reality is this will be a 10% plus unemployment environment for us for a long time.” 


They have pivoted to support Missourians by going to where they are and addressing their needs. For the near future he doesn’t expect to have people sitting in a job center or to provide training in a community college. As a result, they will be proactive by getting out front and virtualizing as many of their services, including training programs.


Both states are partnering with CompTIA for their training needs because as Alvarez stated, “CompTIA doesn’t prepare people for jobs, it prepares individuals for careers. What we want is to put Texans back to work just like all Americans as quickly as possible. The best way to do that is using the CompTIA model.”


Texas has a decentralized system with 28 workforce boards and 50 community college districts, so the solutions have to come from the local area. “We don’t try to do a one size fits all type of approach,” said Robertson. “Whether it is utilizing services and training resources that CompTIA has, our community colleges are active, and they partner with other entities including organizations like CompTIA.” Plus, he shared that many colleges have done internal CompTIA certification and the CompTIA curriculum and have been successful.


“The current environment suggests that we are ready. This is very different than anything we’ve faced before. And with our colleges and workforce boards primed to take advantage, I think they’ll be looking for these relationships more and more, and we’re encouraging them to be innovative and find partners that can help meet the current demands based on their local needs,” Robertson added.


“We’re excited as we partner with CompTIA to roll out a series of certifications and on-demand virtual training programs that are 8 -12 weeks long that will be really helpful for a majority of Missourians impacted by this,” Leathers stated. “What’s important for us to consider is that our whole game here is to help skill up and get back to work. We’re thinking about what we can do while those individuals are on unemployment until July 30 to be prepared for when the benefit cliff occurs. We hope they are called back, but if they aren’t, what kind of skill or credentials could they have received during this interim period?”


Leathers believes if people go back after they’ve received this training, there will be a more productive, skilled and resilient workforce. “This is a win-win for us as it allows us to pivot our system and resources in a way that we haven’t been able to before, and we are able to be more proactive and responsive to this crisis and getting out front and providing these services.”


The CompTIA Custom Training team had been working with the Texas Workforce Commission prior to COVID-19 and Alvarez is proud of the results. “I have success stories that we can talk about forever, like Jared Stevens from Mission, Texas who is now working in San Diego. If it hadn’t been for CompTIA who allowed him to go to school at no expense out of his own pocket, it wouldn’t be possible for him to not only provide for himself but his family.”


“So, we want to complement you and take this opportunity – there are so many things we can say about CompTIA and what we are doing -- but this an opportunity for us to share with you some of the successes we’ve had together partnering with CompTIA and other states around the country,” Alvarez said.


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