In early 2020, Central Texas had enjoyed years of record-setting expansion and a labor market with historically low unemployment. However, even under these favorable conditions, worrisome trends loomed. The aging of the workforce and retirement exposure, the educational attainment of the working-age population, youth disconnection, and the digitalization of jobs significantly impacted many of the nine counties comprising the region (Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, and Williamson). Addressing these challenges for such a diverse and large service area would require a great deal of planning and coordination.
With this in mind, Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area (WSRCA) hired TIP Strategies in spring 2020 to assist in the development of strategic plans tailored for each county and a common regional strategic framework to enhance collaboration and amplify the collective impact of workforce initiatives and programs. The team conducted surveys, county-level workshops, and focus groups that informed the creation of a shared agenda and common framework for the region and each of the counties. The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the goals and strategies developed during the planning process. The subsequent economic shutdown and recession magnified existing workforce-related challenges, such as broadband access, older and more vulnerable workers dropping out of the labor force, and reduced childcare resources. The resulting strategic framework emphasized three shared goals: 1) collaborate on solutions for structural barriers; 2) enhance the regions’ employer-led and demand-drive workforce system; and 3) create pathways to self-sufficient employment and career advancement. As WSRCA completed the strategic plans that would guide its work over the next three years, it was clear that the workforce board must lead the region in the alignment and coordination of resources to support common workforce-related goals.