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Pushing to Expand Job Training Opportunities in Texas

Work-based learning opportunities provide students the opportunity to get real-life job skills and experiences which completing a certificate or degree. They can also provide a debt-free pathway to a career, such as an apprenticeship that allows you to earn a salary while participating in training on a skilled job through a mix of supervised work-based learning and academic instruction. YI supported the establishment of a work-based learning task force that would have advised the state on steps to increase work-based learning opportunities, remove barriers to growth, and provide guidance on aligning public/private funds. We advocated for young adult participation in the task force to ensure that student voices are part of shaping this critical conversation. In the following blog post, our fellow young advocate Bryan Nya shares how he helped move forward legislation that could expand work-based learning opportunities for fellow Texans. Check out more reflections from our young advocates on their work in the Texas legislative process.

Work-based learning has been a critical element in my path to prosperity. When I was 16, I decided to pursue a CNA certificate while in high school. I wanted to gain new skills that could help me later in life. At the time, I enrolled at Austin Community College to take courses to earn my CNA certificate. I paid everything out-of-pocket but afterward, I was able to work in the healthcare field and earn a good salary while continuing to pursue my education. 

Fast forward to today, CNA apprenticeship programs at organizations like Youthbuild and Goodwill are subsidized, to help young people from low-income backgrounds gain useful skills. I wish I had known about programs like these since it would have saved me money, but the fact that they exist shows just how necessary apprenticeships are for young people. As you know, college is a huge investment both financially and personally. These types of programs can be an alternative to a four-year degree and have had a lot of buy-in at the legislature resulting in bills like SB 1355 and HB 3818. These bills aimed to establish a work-based learning task force made up of agencies and community members to advise the state on strategies to provide students with on-the-job training that correspond with classroom instruction. 

With the help of Young Invincibles, young people like me worked to move these bills forward. Our teamwork and relentless drive for impact paid off. SB1355 was referred to the Natural Resource and Economic Development Committee and scheduled for a hearing. I had the opportunity to testify in support of SB 1355. My role as a young advocate prepared me to speak with confidence before both Democratic and Republican senators. I spent weeks working on the bill alongside other advocates including attending several legislator meetings where we would make our case for the bill.

I was determined to see the bill pass because I know how life-changing apprenticeships are and how much this bill could help young people. It would create several opportunities for young adults like me to gain the necessary training, skills, and education they need to secure a good-paying job. The bill would also provide college students paid job training that aligns their school instruction with job skills so they wouldn’t stress about managing multiple jobs and classes just to get those skills. 

After my testimony, the committee unanimously voted to move the bill along but it did not pass. I’m disappointed that this bill died as it would have been a win-win for everyone, especially young people who need more opportunities to reach financial stability in Texas. 

Bryan Nya attends Austin Community College and Huston Tillotson University and has worked as a Certified Nurse Assistant caring for senior citizens at a senior care facility.