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Nearly 500,000 Texas youth are considered 'disconnected' | Here's what the state is doing to reach them

They’re considered "disconnected" and the state deems them "opportunity youth" for their potential.

AUSTIN, Texas —

Nearly a half-million youth, 16 to 24 years old, are not enrolled in any classes this coming year.

They’re considered “disconnected,” and the state deems them “opportunity youth” for their potential.

Texas is among the highest in the nation with youth out of school and out of work.

The state wants to reach them during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering money for apprenticeships.

Erica Proffer: “How are apprenticeships different now than prior to COVID-19?”

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) spokesman: “Most classes are online. On-the-job training includes safety measures related to COVID-19 from the CDC and state agencies. Depending on the occupation, classes moved to online/virtual classes and some occupations were already holding online/virtual classes. Department of Labor – Office of Apprenticeship (DOL-OA) has provided technical assistance to programs on how to continue quality industry training during COVID-19. COVID-19 stalled the training [for a short time], but training started back up and is apparently going strong.”

Proffer: “Can TWC provide information about the Building Construction Trades Project?

TWC spokesman: “TWC’s Building Construction Trades competitive grant program provides training for employment in high-demand building and construction trade occupations, which is one of the strongest sectors in the Texas economy. The program provides funding to nonprofit organizations, general academic teaching institutions, institutions of higher education (IHEs), private or independent institutions of higher education, and other eligible agencies of higher education to provide training for one or more high demand occupations in the building construction trades sector, including carpenters, plumbers, pipefitters, welders, masons and electricians. TWC is planning to release a fourth round of funding in 2020 that focuses on training for young workers ages 16-24 that are not currently engaged in school or the workforce called “opportunity youth.”’

Proffer: “Will all classes be taught online?”

TWC Spokesman: “When available, classroom learning will be taught online. When online options are not available and lessons are provided in a classroom setting, companies and organizations are required to follow safety guidelines set by OSHA and the CDC. With the Office of Apprenticeship (OA) at the. U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), communications to their registered apprenticeship programs are all communicating on how to continue at providing quality and safe training for all occupations/industries.

“Workforce solutions offices are not closed and have remained open. Depending on the number of COVID cases in areas of Texas and regulations set by local authorities, some workforce solutions offices are not available for face-to-face interactions, but people can call or email them. We would recommend that people in rural areas without an internet connection call their local workforce solutions office for details on how they could participate in an apprenticeship program.”

Proffer: “Can you help me find out how people will be learning this and other topics in light of COVID-19?”

TWC spokesman: “Yes, construction trades are strong participants in Registered Apprenticeship, but our focus is working with any employer in any industry that wants to use the training model of Registered Apprenticeship in building and strengthening their workforce. If a company needs to have employees training in competencies in order to provide services and/or provide better/more product, some of the latest Registered Apprenticeship Training Programs that we have developed is in such occupations as:

  • Cyber security support specialist
  • IT generalist
  • Workforce development professional

Proffer: “Will everything be done online?”

TWC spokesman: “Some testing and competency required in-person, hands-on activities.”

Proffer: “What can people do in rural areas that do not have internet and Workforce Solutions offices are closed?”

TWC spokesman: “While Workforce Solutions offices' physical locations have been closed, they remain available and have been providing services virtually. Depending on the number of COVID cases in areas of Texas and regulations set by local authorities, some Workforce Solutions offices are not available for face-to-face interactions, but people can call or email them. We would recommend that people in rural areas without an internet connection call their local Workforce Solutions office for details on how they could participate in an apprenticeship program.

“There are 500-plus registered apprenticeship programs in Texas training 20,000-plus apprentices. Many programs have had to address this and as a last resort they did conference calls and snail mail for the classroom work. Another solution was the classroom had internet service and students without internet access accessed the program internet in the parking lot. Note these are a couple of extreme cases. Most reported they moved to the online/virtual world relatively easily.

“TWC might not be the problem solver for internet access – each program would do what works for their apprentices to move forward in the program training and work hours to advancement [including raises] and completion.”

Information that is sometimes sent to candidates asking for information:

Thank you for contacting TWC’s Office of Apprenticeship. Our office does not place apprentices into apprenticeship programs, but we are providing you with links below to look for potential opportunities. Our recommendation is that you contact your local Workforce Solutions career office and ask to speak with a staff member who can provide you with additional assistance. Number 3 below will help you locate the office closest to you where you can speak with a Workforce representative who may be able to assist you with your training needs.

Apprenticeship.Gov - This website provides career exploration, training, and job searches for apprenticeship (and sometimes non-apprenticeship) opportunities.

MyNextMove - This website offers career exploration with registered apprenticeships in addition to wage, education and industry information. This website will help you understand the different knowledge, skills and abilities required for various occupations.

Directory of Workforce Solutions Offices and Services - This website will locate the Workforce Solutions office closest to you. Enter your ZIP code and select the Job Seeker Services button. A career office staff member should be able to assist you with job searches if you are looking for work opportunities or training services. If you are a veteran, please select the button for that category because this will give you priority status.

Work-In-Texas - This is our state’s premier online job search resource. You can create an account and look for employment opportunities.

Proffer: “Anything else?”

TWC spokesman: “Apprenticeship combines paid, on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced journey workers with related classroom instruction. Most registered apprenticeship training programs last at least one up to five years as determined by industry standards.

“There are hundreds of [apprenticeship] occupations. Individuals interested in searching for registered apprenticeship training programs can find a list of careers with registered apprenticeship below.   

“All apprenticeship training programs and apprentices must be registered with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.

“In reference to the press release, 'TWC expands registered apprenticeship program,' the press release is for our next round of Apprenticeship Expansion funding that a portion of the funding will be released in a request for application in early spring. It is to support the development of registered apprenticeship training programs and increase the number of registered apprentices in the state of Texas.”

In addition to apprenticeships, Texas A&M provides online guidance on how adult education and literacy programs work during the pandemic. Information includes:

  • Serving students at a distance and remote instruction
  • Distance learning curriculum providers
  • Free internet provider offers
  • Communication tools/software
  • Mental mealth
  • Pandemic resources

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