WIOA Trailblazer Award

Recognizing Excellence in our Industry

The WIOA Trailblazer Award honors the board that has made the most progress in adopting the changes envisioned in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and in expanding its ability to develop comprehensive workforce solutions for its community.

WIOA Trailblazer Award Winner
Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Texas

Tarrant County is one of the fastest growing urban counties in the United States. Located in north central Texas, it is the home to 1.9 million people. With Fort Worth serving as the county seat, the county includes Arlington, as well as 40 additional cities. Tarrant County is a dynamic urban area where transportation and logistics, as well as aerospace companies and defense contractors, play a major role in the economy. Although the County unemployment rate is 4.1 percent, approximately 40 percent of adult residents have no post-secondary education and seven county zip codes suffer poverty levels between 27.9 percent and 47.5 percent.

Strategic Planning

The Board began with understanding the research behind WIOA – the summary of proven effective practices “What Works in Job Training” and Vice President Biden’s report “Ready to Work, Job Driven Training and Opportunity.” A strategic plan was developed with the input of Board members, community partners, and industry. Targeted industries were defined through local labor market information and skills gaps identified through numerous resources such as community assessments and census data.

Through discussions with area educational entities, we assessed their capacity to offer flexible and innovative training approaches, focused on needed skills and credentials. The need for increased employer and industry engagement and extensive expansion of work-based learning opportunities were identified and planned.

In October 2015, the Board hosted a summit to educate partners on the principles contained in these documents and to launch a Board-developed and -supported portal and a community-wide effort to promote career pathways and industry recognized credentials. All workforce/employment services providers in Tarrant County were invited to provide input to our plan through participation in one of nine work groups that met from November through February 2016. The need to develop a coordinated strategy across all systems that integrates education, training, and support services was identified and planned.

Integrated Planning

The Board is the local grant recipient for the following programs which are planned as an integrated system of services: WIOA Adult/Dislocated Worker/Youth, TANF Employment, SNAP E&T, Wagner-Peyser, and Trade Adjustment Assistance. In 2017 the Board also will oversee the local Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) programs. AEL programs are currently integrated through the Board-formed and -led Adult Education and Literacy Consortium.

We have recently identified 300 young adults in Adult Education to outreach for WIOA or integrated education and training programs. Vocational Rehabilitation services have recently transferred to our state oversight agency as well, however, we have coordinated services with them for many years. We have developed a model Job Club for the Deaf through our collaborative planning efforts. Included in our integrated system are services for court-involved non-custodial parents funded by the Office of the Attorney General to increase payment of child support.

The Board is actively engaged in reintegration of ex-offenders. We participate on the local Re-entry Coalition and are implementing several pilot research programs to develop and test best practices for the most in need (e.g. ex-offenders, homeless). We have found a very successful model for ex-offenders that we will promote for a “pay for success” funding arrangement.

Sector Strategies

In the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region, three local workforce boards, area chambers of commerce, and industry leaders are collaborating as the Regional Workforce Leadership Council to support five of the region’s industry clusters: aerospace, healthcare, infrastructure, logistics and technology. The council has industry liaisons that help the regional workforce development system develop a strong talent pipeline into these industries.

Our Board has responsibility for the aerospace cluster and provides the consortium manager. The Regional Aerospace Consortium, led by Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin, represents an industry that employs over 185,000 jobs in the North Texas region. This sector partnership is charged with meeting the education and workforce needs of the aerospace industry and advises educators on curricula. Often the liaison funnels this information through the Board’s Career and Technology Education Director’s Advisory Committee, comprised of 17 directors from the local Independent school districts (ISDs).

The consortium has created two aerospace worker training programs. Over 400 students have graduated from these programs and gained employment within the aerospace industry. To increase youth’s knowledge of and attraction to the aerospace industry, the consortium developed an aerospace gaming application, FLYBY DFW, which is available for free on iTunes and Google Play.


Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County is governed by two boards: 1) the Workforce Governing Board, comprised of the Tarrant County Judge and the Mayors of Fort Worth and Arlington, which appoints the 29-member Workforce Development Board and meets quarterly (including two joint meetings) to ensure alignment of the system with local community goals, and 2) the Workforce Development Board.

The Development Board meets 8 times annually to receive information from community stakeholders and provide strategic direction to committees and staff. Detailed strategic planning is undertaken in committees, which include a Workforce Improvement Committee (business services committee), a Workforce Delivery Systems Committee (job seeker committee), a Youth Council, and a Leadership Committee.

Except for the Leadership Committee, committees include non-board member expertise (e.g. targeted industry representatives, local economic development entities, and major youth services providers) to ensure strategic plans are comprehensive and relevant to the needs of area businesses, job seekers, and youth. All Committees have goals, strategies, and success measures that are tracked continuously and updated annually.

Periodically, the full Workforce Development Board conducts a strategic planning session. The next session to further refine the Board’s goals and strategies under WIOA will be held this December.

Youth Services

Research shows promising results from the following four approaches: exposure to career and higher education information and opportunities; work-based learning; industry based training programs; and integrated models that combine education, occupational skills, and support services. All four approaches (and all 14 WIOA youth elements) are employed in our youth programs, serving 92 percent out-of-school youth.

WIOA youth use Career Cruising, a detailed interest-based assessment, to identify their top four industry clusters. They then explore these industries on career exploration tours. Local employers offer tours of their facilities so that youth may learn about the companies’ different departments and gain insight from employers on steps they should take to get started on their careers. Youth can also explore careers at Board-hosted annual career fairs.

Last year, numerous companies partnered to provide a work experience for 132 WIOA youth. These youth work in their chosen industry for up to 12 weeks with WIOA-paid wages. Upon completion of the work experience, employers often hire these young adults. We partner with our local TRIO program for access to higher education opportunities; with AEL providers to offer integrated education and training; and our community college to ensure the WIOA-funded training programs are industry based.

Business Services

The Board’s Business Services Team operates on three premises: enhance the economic vitality of the community, connect industry-specific businesses to solve common problems, and develop the future workforce to sustain industry growth. The success of this model has been the recruitment of numerous new businesses, such as Amazon, GE Transportation, Klein Tools and Wal-Mart Fulfillment center, which has resulted in the creation of approximately 4,500 new jobs, bringing over $400 million in capital investments, $300 million in salaries, and over $350 million in taxable sales.

We actively engage with recruiting representatives from the businesses that have expanded or relocated and other businesses in recruiting campaigns and targeted hiring events at our six workforce centers, the veterans outreach center at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base, and community-based organizations. We also host several Business Forums in targeted areas to share our services and to listen to business needs.

Through the Board’s partnerships we have established several business, community, and educational consortia that actively address the widening skills gap and aging workforce challenges of Tarrant County. In collaboration with our Community College and the Governor’s Office, customized training is available for local employers upon joint application.

Career Pathways

With the input of regional industry representatives, the Board has mapped career pathways in the area’s demand industries and developed brochures for dissemination throughout the County. Our one-stop center staff have all been trained in labor market information and career pathways. These pathways are also featured in the Board-developed community portal, which is used by 270 users from 37 community-based organizations offering employment and/or training services.

The Board is working with our community and universities/colleges to ensure that training is designed to allow students to obtain portable, stackable, employer-recognized credentials. For example, both Tarrant County College and UTA are currently positioned to provide all of the credentials that are referred to in our health care pathway. Our next step will be to further develop partnerships to provide a seamless continuum along career pathways for all job seekers, including our most-in-need job seekers.

We are also actively engaged in analyzing the available training offerings and educating area training providers in our desire to purchase industry-recognized skills and credentials. We are working toward well-connected and transparent education, training, credentialing, and support services to facilitate progress along the pathway.

Integrated Program Delivery

Integrated planning is delivered in our five full-service one-stop centers in a variety of ways based on the unique characteristics of the areas that they serve. A single one-stop center provider is procured and is responsible for providing all Board programs, including the more intensive services targeted to specific populations. This allows for case managers to braid a variety of funding sources to provide a comprehensive array of services based on the customers’ needs. These might include transportation assistance, subsidized child care, referral to a subcontractor for intensive needs, enrollment in training or education, work experience placements, or on-the-job training opportunities – with the ultimate goal of placement in self-sufficient employment.

A Vocational Rehabilitation case manager has been assigned to each of our workforce centers to collaborate and co-case manage customers as needed; AEL services are provided within the centers; and two satellite centers operate on subsidized housing authority sites. The Board also contracts with a licensed therapist to provide mental health outreach/screening, assessment, counseling, and coping skills group interventions targeting mental health. Customers are also assisted in accessing needed community supports. Case consultations and/or training is provided to workforce center staff.

Program Data

Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County is a high performing Board that has received local, state, and national recognition. At the 2016 Texas Workforce Conference in December, 2016, a small and a large employer will be recognized as Employer of the Year for their participation in local workforce development efforts. We are honored that two of the six finalists were our nominees, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Klein Tools. Fingers crossed!

DOL representatives have a keen interest in our web-based portal that connects our employment and training community to career pathways, LMI, and web-based collaboration and wish to feature it as a “best practice.”

At the last Texas Workforce Conference, we won awards for Service to the Community, for our work with our Fatherhood Initiative and for Industry Sector Outreach, for our work to establish the Mansfield Manufacturing Partnership. We also received top honors for placement of TANF customers.

We invite you to visit our website to view the pathways brochures, videos, community portal demo, gaming app, and other materials supporting our WIOA vision!

Workforce Solutions for Tarrant Funding and Sources FY2017

WIOA Adult


WIOA Dislocated Worker


WIOA Youth


Trade Adjustment


TANF Work Program




Child Care


Wagner-Peyser ES

$583,514 (salaries funded at state level)

Veterans Services

$110,000 (salaries funded by Texas Veteran Services)

Adult Education & Literacy

$162,442 (non-direct services)

Non-Custodial Parent Program


FY2016 Numbers Served

WIOA Adult


WIOA Dislocated


WIOA Youth


Trade Adjustment


TANF Work Program




Wagner-Peyser ES


Veterans Services


Disabled Veterans


Adult Education & Literacy


The Board has met or exceeded all performance standards, including Statewide Employer Services measures that are unique to Texas, over the last several years.

Board Contract Year 2016 Year End Report


Current Performance


% of Target

UI Claimants re-employed within 10 weeks




# of Employers Receiving Workforce Assistance




Staff Guided Entered Employment




At Risk Employment Retention




Total Job Seekers Educational Achievement




WIOA Youth Placement in Employment/Education




WIOA Youth Literacy/Numeracy Gains




TANF Work Rate




Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County
Judy McDonald
Executive Director
1320 S University Dr. Ste 600
Fort Worth, TX 76107

WIOA Trailblazer Award Nominees

NAWB wishes to thank all Workforce Development Boards that submitted nominations for the WIOA Trailblazer award. Click here for full nomination descriptions.

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NAWB Award Committee Members »

“The Forum is a tremendous value for businesses and business organizations as it provides information, ideas, and resources that enhance employers' ability to attract, retain, and train a competitive workforce.”

~ Laurie Moran, President & CEO, Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, VA