Copperas Cove ISD teacher recognized at the 33rd annual Workforce Solutions of Central Texas Torch Awards

By BRITTANY FHOLER

Cove Leader-Press

 

The Workforce Solutions of Central Texas held their 33rd annual Torch Awards Luncheon, honoring and recognizing 21 individuals, businesses and community organizations, last Friday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. 

The awards luncheon serves as Workforce Solutions of Central Texas’ way to recognize clients who have used Workforce Solutions of Central Texas to find employment or find employees. The awards given out included the Torch Award for Personal Achievement, the Torch Award for Employer of the Year, the Torch Bearer Award, the Torch Award for Professional of the Year, the Torch Award for Community Partner, the Torch Award for Training Provider of the Year and the Torch Leadership Award. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and related impacts, Workforce Solutions of Central Texas was able to provide services to more than 2,190 employers and 12,430 job seekers, and they also connected 160 young adults with work experiences and education opportunities. Workforce Solutions also assists low-income working families with resources such as childcare, and in 2020, they supported an average of more than 2,815 children per day. 

One of the recipients for the Torch Bearer Awards was Copperas Cove High School teacher, Jeni Carbone-Williams. Carbone-Williams is a Health Science Educator and was in the nursing field for 12 years prior to teaching. She received services through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and Child Care Services programs back in 2008 which allowed her to complete her training and become an LVN.

Carbone-Williams said she tells her students all about how Workforce Solutions helped her as she went through nursing school as a single mom and working as a CNA. 

“I tell them about those things because kids at that time, they don’t know what’s out there for them,” Carbone-Williams said. “They’re usually like, ‘Oh, my parents are going to pay,’ but what about if your parents can’t pay? What other things can you do to afford to go to school, especially like Community College and stuff like that. Because I teach health sciences, all of the kids that I teach are going into the field, which is in high demand, so I know that they’ll be able to get the Workforce Investment Act [under the Texas Workforce Commission] if they apply for it.”

Carbone-Williams said she was ecstatic to be receiving the Torch Bearer Award. 

“I didn’t even think anything like this existed,” Carbone-Williams said. “I just told my story, and I guess it was a good story.”

Susan Kamas, executive director at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, explained that the annual awards luncheon allows for Workforce Solutions to honor the top individual customers who have gone through the program as well as the community partners. 

“We have a vast array of programs and services from employers helping them find employees, to upskilling their current employees, to individuals who are college graduates, and they’re looking for a job and they’re looking for a job and need help, somebody coming out of the military or a spouse- we help there,” Kamas said. “Our largest program is childcare, and so it’s subsidized childcare for working families, and our newest one is for people working in the service industry: retail, restaurants, hotel/motel.” 

Workforce Solutions also helps with putting people through school and training and provides support services, tools, equipment, boots, uniforms, etc. They also teach skills such as how to build a resume, how to do a job interview and other skills to qualify people to be hired at a job. 

Workforce Solutions of Central Texas is headquartered in Belton, at 200 N. Main Street, and there are different Workforce Centers throughout Central Texas (Killeen, Temple, Lampasas, Rockdale and Cameron.)

Board chairman Kevin Roberts said that Texas is unique in having a program like Workforce Solutions of Central Texas to help people with their careers. Celebrating the award winners is just a small token of appreciation for them. 

“When you think about the time that we’re in right now with the post-pandemic world- a lot of people changing jobs, a lot of people rethinking their careers- in Texas, this is a very unique model,” Roberts said. “I’ve lived in four other states. Nobody does anything like Texas related to workforce development, so Workforce Solutions is really there as this catch all, and when you identify these super special employees, it just is wonderful to celebrate because it motivates them and motivates their peers and motivates their families. It gives them personal pride and kind of just lifts the whole spirits of the community.”

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