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Regional workforce plan to aid economic recovery in Burnet, Llano counties

Burnet and Llano counties are recovering more quickly than many Central Texas counties from the economic hit of COVID-19, but for different reasons, according to a study by Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area. In measuring the strengths and weaknesses of both counties, a plus in Burnet was the higher percentage of employees already working remotely, even before the pandemic. Llano County’s economic strength comes from its base in small businesses, most of which made a swift recovery during the pandemic.

Both counties suffer from a lack of affordable housing and low labor force participation.

Workforce Solutions recently launched a strategic plan to help support economic recovery in its nine counties, including Burnet and Llano. A nonprofit community partnership program, it provides recruitment and employment services in Central Texas to address workforce needs. 

During the research phase of its newest initiative, Workforce Solutions staff identified a number of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in each of the nine counties the organization serves.

Another strength in Burnet County was its successful execution of high-demand grants to train people for skilled trades as well as medical assistant and bookkeeper jobs. 

The research also found in Burnet County:

WEAKNESSES

  • low labor force participation rate of 58 percent
  • almost half of the adult population is 55 or older
  • shortage of workers with needed technical and soft skills
  • lack of high-wage employment opportunities 
  • high cost of housing

THREATS

  • increased cost of living as more people move to the Highland Lakes
  • dependency on hospitality industry
  • reliability of internet/broadband

OPPORTUNITIES

  • more training programs for adult learners
  • attract more remote workers
  • build workforce housing

Llano County research found: 

WEAKNESSES

  • extremely low labor force participation
  • 16.1 percent of the adult population without a high school diploma 
  • approximately 60.5 percent of the adult population is 55 or older
  • small workforce
  • high cost of housing
  • lack of technical and employability skills
  • broadband access

THREATS

  • small business closures due to the COVD-19 pandemic/economic shutdown
  • college-educated young people move to other areas to find better economic opportunity 

OPPORTUNITIES 

  • supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs 
  • expanding partnerships to increase training available to adults

Along with the analysis, officials outlined ideas and plans to help address the workforce and employment issues in each county. The full study and plan is available on the Workforce Solutions website

“We believe it’s important to document the employer needs in each of our nine counties along with the skills needed and skills available,” said Paul Fletcher, CEO of Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area. “Then, by area, our Community Matters Coalitions can work to address those gaps through various means such as education/training and removal of barriers, such as transportation, access to high-quality child care, workforce housing, and access to broadband internet.”

Workforce Solutions officials added that the plan benefits major industries, employers, and job seekers.

editor@thepicayune.com