The global pandemic and corresponding recession forced companies and communities to devise new ways to connect people and work. In Pflugerville, Texas, the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. was the catalyst for bringing together various partnerships that filled workforce gaps and put many people back to work.
If COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that only the nimblest organizations will thrive. In the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, nimbleness is the hallmark of a public-private workforce development effort that sets the standard for the capital region of Texas.
Melanie Flowers, board chair of Workforce Solutions Capital Area, leads an entity that is responsible for organizing the Austin area’s employment ecosystem. “We partner with the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. in several ways,” says Flowers, who also serves as head of technical training for Samsung Austin Semiconductor. “First, we partnered in high-demand job training grants in 2019 and 2020. PCDC matched our funding and expanded career training programs for high school seniors to prepare them for careers in the EMT field.”
The partners purchased $300,000 of equipment for EMT Training which allows students to be eligible for certification as EMTs after completing the program.
In 2020, WFSCA partnered with PCDC on a training grant for additive manufacturing. The Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy was established with these funds. The academy trains students to become entry-level workers in advanced and additive manufacturing. A plastic injection molding firm and three 3D printing manufacturers in Pflugerville participated in the program.
“A third way we partnered with PCDC was by supporting Pflugerville manufacturing companies with a COVID-19 initiative,” says Flowers. “We offer supervisor training. It targets front-line team leaders in manufacturing plants. The 40-hour course is spread over five weeks. They learn leadership principles to help them overcome challenges presented by COVID-19.”
Fourthly, WFSCA participates in a Career Education and Specialist Outreach Program that raises awareness of manufacturing careers in the Pflugerville School District. The program is funded by the Texas Workforce Commission, and it’s already producing results, notes Flowers. “Rosendin Electric participated in our skills training roundtable. They recently hired graduates of the electrical apprenticeship program,” she says. “That’s the full ecosystem at work. It includes training providers, educators, job seekers, employers, PCDC and Workforce Solutions.”
That ecosystem also includes Austin Community College. Dr. Laura Marmolejo, chair of the advanced manufacturing department at ACC, partnered with PCDC on the establishment of the Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy. Marmolejo credits PCDC Executive Director Amy Madison with having the vision to bring local businesses together to form the PMA.
“The idea was to create a curriculum to support these local businesses and help them grow and bring new people on board,” says Marmolejo. “We’re in the middle of our second course, and we’ve received grant approval to have 125 students in the program this year. Local companies have expressed interest in being part of this program. They’ve allowed us to go into their facilities and document the training that’s needed. This program is open to anyone who wants to get a job or change industries. We’re working with Workforce Solutions to give current workers an opportunity to redirect their future into industries that are growing.”
She adds that, “nowadays, you have to think out of the box. Traditional methods don’t work anymore. That’s why we’re offering virtual training day and night and offering training on the equipment at the job site. It’s hard for people in the academic world to think about this sometimes. This training is not based on historical methodology. This is all about building more access to education and training.”
As companies continue to move to Pflugerville and other places in the Austin area, demand for flexible training is growing, says Marmolejo. “Anything worth developing has to be more collaborative now,” she notes. “It’s about investing in the community.”
Count the local library on board with that thinking too. Daniel Berra, assistant director for the Pflugerville Public Library, says COVID-19 prompted his organization to pivot and become a critical link in the employment supply chain. “We don’t just check out books anymore,” he says. “Now, we provide access to information and training. We offer training resources and databases. Once COVID-19 hit, the library shifted their focus to assist the PCDC in job searches, workforce development, providing virtual programming and helping small business.”
Anyone in Pflugerville can get a free library card and access all the resources of the library free of charge, says Berra. “People can log in and get all the resources of Lynda.com, soon to be LinkedIn Learning. They have access to a vast array of training resources. We have waived all restrictions and we are giving temporary library cards to anyone who needs access.
“In addition to partnering to bring Lynda.com to the community, the library also partners with PCDC on the Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy. Other library resources provide opportunities like Career Online High School [COHS] and VetNow — a resource to support Veterans. They can go through this program [COHS] and get their high school diploma,” Berra says. “We launched many of these initiatives during the pandemic. Our partnership with PCDC has been so rewarding. A lot of people might think, a library, really? But that’s why we exist — to connect residents to the resources they need to find good jobs and be more productive citizens.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. For more information, contact Amy Madison at 512-990-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On the web, go to www.pfdevelopment.com.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.