SOCA: Lifting 10K Austinites out of poverty with good jobs

Helping people make more money is all about jobs and job training. To reduce income inequality and to create opportunities more broadly and equitably so more people can afford to stay in Austin, we need to restructure how we attract new jobs and new job training opportunities to Austin. One element of this effort will be to fundamentally reform our economic incentive programs in Austin.

We’ve got tens of thousands of people in this city living in zip codes that weren’t zoned for opportunity. Most of those zip codes are located in the Eastern Crescent of our city. This is one reason why America’s favorite boomtown ends up as the most economically segregated city in the country.

These people – our neighbors, fellow Austinites – need middle-income jobs, and the training and experience needed to qualify for those jobs. I want to target economic incentives Right. At. Them.

Simply put, we should co-invest with or offer incentives to companies to create jobs in Austin if they’re willing to: bring good middle class jobs for the people who already live here, train and provide paid internships for local folks to get those jobs, create those jobs in the parts of town where it provides the greatest access to those most in need, and generally, follow our rules.

If we’re going to focus our efforts at bringing the right jobs to town, we need to do more to make sure people who live here and need these jobs are qualified to take them. That’s where the Community Workforce Master Plan comes in.

Last year County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and I ordered the first regional workforce master plan central Texas has ever had. We know who needs the jobs in our community. We know the kinds of jobs that employers most need to fill (which, by the way, are information technology, healthcare, and skilled trades). And now, with the regional master plan about to be unveiled, we know how to get them to match up.

Tonight I am pleased to announce, with Judge Eckhardt, the workforce community’s goal that over the next five years we will move 10,000 Austinites out of poverty by getting them qualified for good jobs in those targeted industries.

We now need to align city investments in workforce development with the regional plan, once it’s approved by our Council.

Part of this will be to align our procurement and contracting policies, including how we spend the $720 Million of the Mobility Bond, to incentivize job training, paid internships and apprenticeships.

And I’m counting on local employers to help us achieve our workforce goals. Later this year I will issue a very public challenge to local employers to join in providing that training and those internships and apprenticeships.

Importantly, to achieve our workforce goals, we must support the strengthening of our academic and training partners. I want to join with Council Member Casar and our colleagues on the Council to support the Austin Community College and its Highland Mall development, including potentially creating a partnership for childcare and wellness center to remove barriers to student success so more in our community can get the skills they need to take advantage of the opportunities they deserve. Our academic and training partners are more than just institutions of higher learning. They are factories for American dreams.