At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas unemployment rate skyrocketed from its historical low of 3.4 percent in January 2020 to its historical high of 12.6 percent in April 2020. Like the rest of the country, a wide range of stakeholders, including public officials and economic development professionals, began to rely more heavily on the public workforce system’s data to better understand the pandemic’s economic effects. While the system’s expertise in tracking unemployment statistics is often emphasized, Texas’s public workforce system—comprised of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) at the state level and the 28 workforce development boards (Boards) at the local level—offers a wealth of employment related data.
In response to the heightened awareness of, and reliance on, the workforce system, Workforce Solutions Capital Area (WFSCA), Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area (WSRCA), and Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA), in partnership with TWC, piloted the Texas Talent & Economic Growth project. The objective of the pilot project was to identify strategies to strengthen the alignment between regional workforce planning and economic development. To assist WFSCA, WSRCA, and WSA in this effort, TIP Strategies compiled and reviewed background material, completed an inventory and assessment of available labor market information sources, and conducted extensive stakeholder outreach. In addition to insights contributed by a 12-member advisory group, TIP held a series of interviews with workforce and economic development professionals from across the US and facilitated a major regional workshop with more than 50 individuals representing 25 organizations. The project also leveraged Texas Economic Development Council events, soliciting input from attendees at the organization’s mid-year conference in June and its annual conference in October. Since the pilot’s launch in March 2022, WFSCA, WSRCA, and WSA have explored ways to enhance the ability of TWC and the 28 Boards to consistently deliver information and services of value to economic development entities in Texas. Findings from the pilot shaped the Statewide Action Plan which details strategies and resources for the public workforce system to support Texas talent and to promote economic growth.