To help prepare a skilled workforce to fill a gap in middle-skill jobs, an independent career awareness and exploration campaign called Trade Up Texas was launched in late 2018 that matched Texans with skilled trade training and job opportunities. This campaign was the product of a truly unique partnership between an inventive corporation, an innovative media outlet and a forward-thinking nonprofit. In the end, the Trade Up Texas website and video series inspired almost 2,000 Texans to change their lives and pursue training or work opportunities in trades over the campaign’s six-month lifespan.
“We read a lot in the news about student debt,” says Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Tamara Atkinson, “and about how many students are going to school, getting degrees, having a hard time finding a job – even when we’ve got employers who are looking for skilled talent – and they’re graduating with debt! We’ve been leading a Master Community Workforce Plan since 2017 to connect 10,000 people and move them out of poverty and into good skill jobs by 2021. One of the key strategies in that plan is to raise awareness to the point where people will enroll in a post-secondary course of study that aligns with one of our key industry sectors.”
“KVUE, like most other TV stations, has been doing so much amazing work in the community for so many years,” says president and general manager Kristie Gonzalez of KVUE-TV, “but we were involved in so much that we wanted to get more strategic about what we did with our philanthropy. And so when we listen to our viewers and our viewers say, ‘Hey, traffic sucks and I can’t afford rent …’ – we knew [that] over and over, because we kept seeing that in the data, that that’s where we needed to put our energy. Still trying to help with the traffic thing (laughs), but I think just focusing the work that we do helped us to say ‘no’ to some things and ‘yes’ to things like Trade Up Texas, where we knew that that would make a difference for people.”
“One of the best things was that everybody understood what they brought to the table,” says Jeremiah Bentley of Texas Mutual Insurance. “Workforce Solutions, they do a great job at delivering on those services – connecting people once they get into the pipeline. They have some restrictions on what they can do [for] advertising and marketing, and they’re really – they’re a service provider, right? So that’s not their expertise, whereas KVUE – great media company, knows how to tell compelling stories, put together good content, things like that. So they really had that unique part.”
“Texas Mutual had the original vision for how this could come together and how they could support their community,” says Atkinson. “Ultimately, they helped with the sponsorship to ensure that we had the resources that Workforce Solutions otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
“We looked at it like a marketing problem,” says Bentley. “That was on the KVUE side of it – like, okay, we have this customer base we’re trying to reach … how do we generate leads for them? Then how do we turn them over to the service provider to do [the service needed]?”
“I think the more we can look at these things as business challenges, the better that we can all work together.”
“KVUE came in as a tremendous media partner,” says Atkinson. “They brought the know-how about how to capture these stories on film in a way that was compelling, and that would resonate, and that would prompt people to take action.”
“We really had to scale up in the beginning because once we turned the marketing on, it was like, whoosh!” says Gonzales.
Bentley compliments KVUE thinking outside the traditional box. “[KVUE] could have said, ‘Okay, well, we’ll have you on a couple times, and we’ll promote this event, whatever, we’ll call it good. And that’ll be the extent of our relationship,'” he says, “but to wait it out, and find the right opportunity for the level of strength that everybody brings together was really, for me, the coolest part.”
Atkinson praises the partnership. “Frankly, this project exceeded every single expectation I had for how we would work with a business and media partner to do really good work in our community.”
People do good for others every day in the community surrounding Austin. At RecognizeGood, our mission is to help strengthen that community by sharing those inspiring examples. In our Doing Good Better series, we take a docu-series look into innovative collaborations around the Austin area that make our community stronger.