This summer, we’ve embarked on a road trip to find out how six cities are building equitable pathways to postsecondary and workforce success. In Austin, we meet with key stakeholders and Mayor Steve Adler to learn about the next steps in ensuring equity in access to opportunity.
This post was co-authored by Dana D’Orazio and Audrey M. Hutchinson. This is the fifth post in a series on the NLC Summer Road Trip in partnership with LinkedIn, an initiative made possible with generous funding from The Kresge Foundation.
Welcome to Austin! The city’s slogan “Keep Austin Weird” is a testament to homegrown businesses, creative storefronts and lots of art and culture.
Austin, the capital of the state of Texas, is a vibrant and bustling city that still has a small-town feel. Everywhere you look your eyes are met with colorful murals, creative, quirky signage, beautiful rolling hills and meandering waterways. There are definitely no tumbleweeds here.
We joined the Austin team at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s State of Talent event, where local stakeholders focused on the millennial workforce, talent development and promising strategies. Meeting with Mayor Steve Adler, teams from the National League of Cities (NLC) and LinkedIn discussed the city’s vision for equity in education and employment including the newly released Austin Metro Area Master Community Workforce Plan (Master Plan).
The Master Plan is a framework that ties workforce development and education together in a way that ensures opportunities for everyone residing in the greater Austin area. During the visit, NLC facilitated a discussion among 20 local stakeholders on their roles in implementing the plan.
“We have set a goal to lift 10,000 people out of poverty and into good-paying jobs, and thanks to our Master Community Workforce Plan, we will achieve it,” Mayor Adler said.
The city has recognized the need to work closely with regional stakeholders, and the Mayor’s Office has partnered with Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt as leads in this important effort.
“Our community faces serious challenges to affordability and equity. We have to create jobs that are aligned with the skills of the Central Texans who need them. The Master Plan is guiding us as we help Travis County residents climb these ladders of opportunity,” Eckhardt said.
The Austin team is building pathways to middle-skill jobs — career-entry-level jobs that require technical training beyond high school, but not a four-year college degree — in three industry sectors: information technology, healthcare and skilled trades.
“Skills are the differentiator. If people have skills for the jobs here they can prosper and so can the community,” said Tamara Atkinson, executive director of Workforce Solutions Capital Area.
Just one of Austin’s many strengths is their expansion of cross-sector partnerships to include local government, workforce development organizations, education and employers.
LinkedIn’s Economic Graph analysis, particularly the data on talent migration and in-demand skill sets, helped local stakeholders dive deeper into strategies for building stronger alignment between the K-12 and postsecondary pathways to middle skills and other in-demand jobs. The Austin team is considering using the existing Summer Melt high-touch counseling model to get more residents on the path to higher education and meaningful employment. Stakeholders are also exploring strategies to track certification programs and other higher learning opportunities that are helping adults increase their skills.
Austin’s – along with Houston and Corpus Christi’s – local efforts are leading the way as part of the state-wide TX 60×30 campaign to increase overall degree attainment in the state to 60 percent by 2030.
Next time you find yourself in this eclectic, good-vibe city, be sure to grab a healthy drink at Juiceland on your way to a scenic walk by Lady Bird Lake. Grab a quick bite at Austin’s version of 24-hour diners, we recommend either Magnolia Cafe or Kerbey Lane Cafe. Make sure to order the gingerbread pancakes and some migas!
Austin was our last stop on the Road Trip, but stay tuned for updates on our visits to Houston and Corpus Christi, where work has been delayed due to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
Learn more about our travels on CitiesSpeak and Twitter with our #EquityEdEmployment thread.
About the authors:
Dana D’Orazio is the Program Manager for Postsecondary Education at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
Audrey M. Hutchinson is the Director of Education and Expanded Learning at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.