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TWC leaders (l. to r.) Amber Warne, Kristie Caviness, Marlon Drakes and Julian Alvarez with training program leader Paul Jones (see story for titles)

Getting At-Risk Austinites into the Workforce Earns 105,001 Reasons to Keep the Program Rolling

On any given day around Austin, 20 professional carpenters complete their work and bring home high wages and fringe benefits for themselves and their families. They are soon to be joined by 30 more co-workers within six months who will reap the same compensation for their work.


What makes these 50 men and women unique is that they are graduates of an Austin-based program to get at-risk Austinites back into the workforce, ASAP.


The program is funded by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and delivered by the Austin carpenters union. On October 6, the TWC’s Julian Alvarez, presented the Gulf Coast Carpenters & Millwrights Training Trust Fund (GCCMTTF) with a check for $105,001 to keep this innovative program rolling.


This program’s goal, which started earlier this year, is to get 50 at-risk Austinites into the construction workforce by April 2022.


“It’s a win-win for all involved,” said Jason Engels, CEO and Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Central South Carpenters Regional Council (CSCRC). The CSCRC works with the Austin training center to keep its pro carpenters trained for Austin contractors.


“This program helps alleviate the skilled labor shortage in Austin’s construction community, which needs carpenters for interior systems projects, while at the same time providing these men and women with a career that holds nearly unlimited potential.”

Austin Training Coordinator Bobby Vasquez (left) tours officials around the Training Center

Participants qualify if they are a parent and/or are on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or other government assistance program. Training is an 8-week rigorous course, which is the equivalent of two years of regular union carpenter apprenticeship training.


Of the participants, it’s easy to see that one student’s background and story is more challenging and unfortunate as the next. At the first cohort graduation, one young man who was released from prison months prior, said with a crack in his voice that he never imagined having a career with such a promising future given where he was less than a year ago.


Joining Together for a Common Cause


At the check ceremony, Commissioner Alvarez was joined by other key area workforce development leaders, which was held at the GCCMTTF’s Austin training center. They included Jose Garza, Travis County District Attorney; Amber Warne, Director of Upskilling and Advancement, Workforce Solutions Capital Area; Kristie Caviness, Manager Employer Engagement & Community Outreach Office, TWC; Rickey Jones, Travis County District Attorney’s office; and Marlon Drakes, with the office of employer initiatives.


Those speaking on behalf of the training program and carpenters’ union included Paul Jones, Executive Director, GCCMTTF, Craig Wright, CSCRC Operations and Organizing Director; and Bobby Vasquez, Training Coordinator for the Austin program.


To date, two of the four cohorts have completed, thus placing the 20 new carpenters on Austin jobsites – all of whom were hired immediately upon completing the course by local contractors. The third cohort is set to begin October 18, with the fourth and final cohort scheduled to complete in time to meet the April 2022 goal.

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