Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) congratulated Workforce Solutions and the Border Workforce Alliance (BWA) after the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it has awarded a Workforce Innovation Fund Grant in the amount of $5,999,998 to Workforce Solutions of McAllen, as the lead entity for the BWA. The BWA is a consortium of the five workforce boards located along the Texas-Mexico border. Earlier this year, Cuellar wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates in support of the BWA's application for this grant.
"As we emerge from this economic recession, the government's number one priority should be getting people back to work, and I'm confident that Workforce Solutions and the Border Workforce Alliance will leverage this federal money to help lower unemployment and poverty rates in the Texas-Mexico area," said Cuellar. "I'm glad that the Department of Labor recognizes BWA's potential to play a critical role in developing the workforce along the Texas-Mexico border and that it will support BWA's efforts with this grant."
The BWA will use the Workforce Innovation Fund Grant to fund a workforce project called Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce (GROW), an ambitious regional workforce and economic development initiative that aims to increase literacy and skills training for lower-skilled workers in the Texas-Mexico border region. The project design consists of a multi-stakeholder initiative to fundamentally change the services delivered as part of the public workforce system to employ and advance lower-skilled adults.
"This is wonderful news, not just for the communities we serve but the entire state of Texas. With these funds, Project GROW will serve specific populations that face many of the same barriers and provide them with the necessary resources and tools to succeed in the workforce," said Yvonne 'Bonnie' Gonzalez, CEO of Workforce Solutions. "I would be remiss if I did not mention our many partners that helped make this possible, including our congressional offices, and workforce development boards that represent the BWA, along the Texas/Mexico border spanning from El Paso to Brownsville, TX; Jobs for the Future; and business and community partners."
Project GROW responds to a critical need in the Texas-Mexico border population, which continues to trail behind the general population in education attainment, per capita income and basic literacy skills. The Educational Needs Index ranks Texas as having the most critical level of educational needs in the country.
"I extend my sincere congratulations to the executive directors of each of the workforce boards in the BWA--Bonnie Gonzalez, Rogelio Trevino, Lorenzo Reyes, Ricky McNiel and Stanley Pat Hobbs--and thank them for the important work they do on behalf of our community and its workers," said Cuellar.
The BWA was formed in December 2012 when the five workforce boards located along the Texas-Mexico border convened to propose a plan of action to improve border literacy and skills training. Comprised of workforce development boards in El Paso, Uvalde, Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, the BWA works to expand and initiate evidence-based practices to increase the literacy and training of workers in the border region and strengthen the local economy. The 22 counties in the BWA's service area have a joint population of 2,419,388.
This grant was one of 26 Workforce Innovation Fund grants totaling $146.9 million announced today by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. The grants are aimed at developing and expanding innovative strategies to help Americans return to work.