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Workforce development must respond to change.

Texas is experiencing a tremendous run. In the last several years, Texas has been designated the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business. Our population is growing, increasing the number of well-trained workers. As the momentum continues for economic prosperity in Texas, responding to workforce development needs is paramount to ongoing success. However, challenges exist for public-sector and private employers all across the state due to the changing needs of the marketplace. Employers must train, recruit and retain quality employees. As workforce development professionals, we must work to ensure that our workforce is educated and trained appropriately for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

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We Built Our Plane In the Air

In relative terms, we at the Texas Workforce Commission are the new kids on the block among Texas state agencies. Our workforce challenges were addressed during the ramp-up of the agency. Created in 1996, TWC represents the consolidation of 28 workforce programs that had been administered by 10 different state agencies. Everything from unemployment insurance to veterans' training to senior employment were scattered across 10 agencies in the state. Implementing the challenges of change was a given for us. We had to engage the entire agency and embrace the challenges. As a result, we were able to implement a progressive vision with relatively little resistance from within.

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Evolving training methods were essential to prepare employees from 10 agencies for change. All existing state agencies, no matter how established, face similar continual challenge of upgrading the skills of employees, many of whom are staying in the workforce well past traditional retirement age. For the public sector, extensive efforts are vital to ensure that the workplace remains vibrant and stimulating in order to retain high-caliber workers.

Texas has always been committed to enhancing the skills of public-sector workers. To address the training needs of management, we can proudly point to 1981, when Gov. William P. Clements established the The Governor's Center for Management Development to provide economical managerial and leadership training to managers in Texas state agencies. The program instructors, all trained managers, were provided on a temporary basis by state agencies. In October 1993, the center was transferred by executive order to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and provides leadership training to the public and private sector. The initial management and leadership training has evolved over time into the three current course tracks for managers--Management Development Program, Excellence in Leadership and the Senior Management Program.

The Management Development Program at Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs is designed for supervisors at all organizational levels who want to develop or enhance their understanding and practice of fundamental management principles in the context of today's challenging environment.

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Graduates of the program return to their workplace with a written action plan to transform their learning into increased managerial effectiveness.

The Excellence in Leadership series comprises intensive skills-building courses, including customer service excellence, strategic planning and performance measurement, and decision-making, team-building and managing conflict.

Participants in the Senior Management Program address personal, professional and organizational issues relevant to senior executives in government and academia. Topics vary to meet changing needs, but offerings include opportunities to build skills in advocacy, communication strategies, teamwork, vision, values and integrity, organizational culture, diversity, negotiation and change management.

Texas public-sector employers provide continued professional development through internal and external training opportunities, as well as specific certification programs. Agencies utilize the Survey of Organizational Excellence, which provides information on employee satisfaction, so that agencies can respond in ways that will retain highly skilled workers. Twenty specific workplace elements are measured, including benefits, burnout, employment development, supervisor effectiveness, and time and stress.

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The survey is an excellent benchmarking tool used to support high-quality initiatives and continuous improvement. State agencies have adopted flex time, casual-dress Fridays, telecommuting, formal training plans, Intranet sites, team meetings, facility upgrades and morale-building activities as workplace improvement ideas that originated from the survey. Retention bonuses and one-time merit bonuses also have served as effective tools for Texas state agencies in the effort to retain and reward valuable employees.

According to results published by the Texas State Auditor's Office, TWC has had outstanding results. Of 160 workers polled in an exit survey, only one individual sited inadequate training as a reason for leaving the agency. "Better pay and benefits" was sited as the primary reason for employee's departures (46 of 160, or 29 percent).

Across all Texas state agencies, only 35 of 3,522 exiting employees sited inadequate training as a reason for their departure (again, better pay and benefits was the primary cause--819 of 3,522, or 23 percent).

The statewide government turnover rate for full- and part-time, classified employees in fiscal year 2006 was 15.8 percent, based on a total of 22,905 voluntary and involuntary separations. This figure represents a 6.2 percent decrease in separations when compared with the previous fiscal year. However, excluding involuntary separations and retirements decreases the state turnover rate to 10.6 percent.

From the information TWC gleans from the Survey of Organizational Excellence, the agency develops and oversees training for more than 11,000 recipients statewide, including agency employees, business partners and nearly 1,000 workforce board members. Given the unique structure of the Texas Workforce Commission's workforce development initiatives, the training of workforce board members is crucial. These members of the 28 workforce development boards throughout the state oversee programs of workforce development and public assistance at the local level. Local service delivery, with performance monitored at the state level by TWC, has proved to be an effective model for Texas. In a given month, TWC trains about 4,800 people in classroom settings.

The mission of the Training and Development Department is to help TWC and our partners with the enhancement of employee workplace skills and productivity through the development, coordination and delivery of quality learning opportunities and human resource development systems.

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TWC offers 50 different courses with an average of 250 classroom training sessions per year. The agency employs three supervisors responsible for 17 trainers split into three teams focusing on automation, management development and program training. Each trainer develops curricula and oversees classroom presentations. On an annual basis, TWC administers more than 300,000 non-classroom training and development services, including web-based documents and courses, self-paced books, surveys, group meetings and comprehensive program guides, among others. For example, when TWC creates a Computer-Based Training product, that program provides training to many people. When TWC trains those same people on another topic, that training is counted as an "individual unduplicated service." Another example would be with our Comprehensive Program Guides. Certain staff would need to be trained in the material for five different programs; each time a person completes that training, it is counted as a service.

TWC uses the American Society for Training and Development standards. TWC staff conduct all training; the agency does not outsource training.

TWC evaluates its services via a three-level rating system:

* Level I: pre- and post-tests

* Level II: post-course, in-class evaluation forms

* Level III: an evaluation sent at the six-month mark following a course to assess what was retained and useful.

In 2006, TWC collaborated with the Texas Association of Workforce Boards to create the National Workforce Institute, a nonprofit organization designed to improve performance for workforce professionals. TWC provided the initial $750,000 funding for the workforce institute, an 18-month study to identify the skill needs of those in the workforce. As a result, TWC has successfully added training courses to meet those needs. Some of the key courses include communication, conflict resolution, business writing, teamwork and workforce development systems. The institute now offers a certification program for workers, and a national effort is under way, with other states coming on board. Indiana joined this effort in February 2007.

By working together to align workforce and education programs with the demands of our workplaces, we can continue the vigorous growth our state has experienced in recent years. Together we can forge a new economic era for our state, ensuring a prosperous new century for generations to come.

Larry Temple is the executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission.
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Title Annotation:Texas Workforce Commission
Author:Temple, Larry
Publication:Policy & Practice
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Words:1374
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