Through the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition, teams will collaborate with workforce boards and XPERT advisors to advance new training technologies that lead to jobs paying a living wage and offering opportunities for career growth. Over the next six weeks, we’ll introduce you to the people behind each of the six selected pilot workforce boards through the XPRIZE Meet the Cities blog series. Meet our first city, Dallas.
Soon, we’ll be piloting testing for the Qualified Teams of the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition in situ, and Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas (WFSDallas) is one organization leading in Texas that we’ll partner with.
WFSDallas exists to ensure competitive solutions for employers through quality people, and for people through quality jobs. Using public and private resources, they drive initiatives that connect employers with quality job candidates. They help unemployed and underemployed people find work and support highly skilled individuals who want to transition into new careers. Given that unemployment rates rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than in two years of the Great Recession, this work is more important than ever.
Focusing particularly on placing people within the key regional industries of healthcare, technology, trade, and transportation, WFSDallas serves an average of 110,000 individuals annually. And 2020 provided unique service connection opportunities, to say the least. But WFSDallas does not only help with placement, they also assist families with transportation and work-ready supplies, as well as subsidized childcare.
“There is little question that local business-led workforce boards will be a key to the nation’s recovery. The agility at the local level is an unmatched quality and coupled with innovation will provide job seekers and businesses much needed help. Few places can match Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas Workforce Board for leadership, innovation, and passion. Dallas always makes us proud, so it’s no surprise they will help lead us into the future." – Ronald D. Painter, CEO, National Association of Workforce Boards
Below, we talked to the team at WFSDallas about the critical work they do with displaced workers, veterans, foster youth, and other groups, as well as what they’re learning from taking part in XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling.
What inspires you about the solutions anticipated from XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling?
WFSDallas is always looking for innovative strategies to assist our customers in finding workforce solutions for their challenges. Private funding opportunities like this give us the opportunity to pilot new innovative methods of connecting people with resources and skills to advance and move into livable-wage careers. We believe in the technological alternatives and hope to find something very special in this project.
What’s the unique impact that you provide for workers, businesses, and your community at large?
Dallas is a working community. Most people who complete an academic plan through high school, appear to consider their life to be “work and work harder.” We believe that Dallas has to adopt a philosophy and necessary support to create a learning community. A “learn, work, learn, work” model is the only way to sustain healthy careers and healthy incomes.
WFSDallas is a strong voice for the workforce in Dallas County, and acts as a proven solution for employers seeking to hire and train workers. Workforce Board governance in Texas has the benefit of additional state legislation that brings reality to the vision of WIOA by including management of ALL workforce adjacent activities including administration of subsidized childcare, management of employment services, ESL, and adult education.
What is one of your favorite stories to tell about someone that your organization has significantly impacted?
Sadly, the gentleman who comes to mind recently passed. He was a student in our adult education/ESL project at Irving ISD. He was so dedicated to his education that he inspired his daughter to study harder in high school. Her teacher communicated with the program to tell us that her student (his daughter) was suddenly doing better in class. She told her teacher that if her father could study as an adult in his workplace, she felt it was necessary for her to work harder, now. It was the most profound testament to two-gen programming and the power of family.
What tech-forward innovations or programs is your organization adopting to deconstruct systemic barriers for millions of unemployed workers?
We began in-home learning systems and paid for a year of internet connections during Welfare to Work in the late ’90s. Since 2017, we are providing tablets and online upskilling for retail workers in our area with funding through Walmart.org. Through their confidence in our efforts, we are now replicating our experience into four other boards in Texas, including establishing a Texas portal for online learning.
Our upcoming project is a well-produced RoadTrip Nation effort on behalf of Opportunity Youth. As we work with a large number of workers displaced by COVID, we have turned our employer services into JobsNOW!, Facebook Monday virtual job fairs for essential jobs, and highly produced virtual experiences with Easy Virtual Events that include thousands of jobs each quarter. Our entire system went virtual in a matter of days following March 13th, 2020.
We have also increased WiFi access in our workforce center parking lots to allow people greater connectivity at night and on weekends. Workforce issues are not just 8-5!
How is being part of XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling and the Future of Work Grand Challenge changing your strategies for engaging regional employers and community partners?
Both XPRIZE and Future of Work Grand Challenge cannot be extracted from the current economic environment – this time and place require us to do more with technology and to provide innovative suggestions to our employers. Dallas benefits from a huge job market, and constant influx of new employers – even during a pandemic. Our efforts will continue to aggregate employers with sector strategies, but will now include more engagement around these two fascinating opportunities. We locate four floors above the Dallas Regional Chamber and maintain a strong cooperative relationship.
The greatest challenge in facing COVID-19 is to restore employment for more than 50,000 Dallas County residents who remain displaced, or at least reduce the unemployment rate from 6.8% to 3.3% (as it was in 2020). We track displaced workers in real time. All of this determines the competitive strength of Dallas County.
Our WFSDallas emphasis for 2021 is: retain (jobs), retrain (for employer specifications), and reboot (our workforce system). We can’t think of a better emphasis than the XPRIZE and Grand Challenge to inspire us on this journey.
What are you most radically optimistic about?
Youth! They are our future, our resilience as a society, and we believe they will find their way to the new workforce. WFSDallas will play an integral part in their success.
Next up: How XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling tech is making a big impact in San Diego.
Learn more about XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling at rapidreskilling.xprize.org.