If you are at all familiar with the workforce development community, then you most likely know Judy McDonald, Executive Director of Workforce Solutions Tarrant County. Judy is recognized for her leadership, innovation, and collaboration. She has been the recipient of numerous accolades and awards at the state and national level. In 2020, she was named one of the 400 most influential people in Ft. Worth.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Judy about her career and workforce development.
Q. What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in workforce development during your career?
A. You must go back to the 1970’s and the beginning of the Private Industry Councils under CETA. This was the first time we had actual employer involvement beyond an advisory role. Fast forward to the 1990’s and the origin of the one-stop center concept. Tarrant County was one of the first demonstration pilot sites in the nation. This was before the consolidation and integration of workforce programs and agencies. We started from scratch working with community partners and investing a great deal of time energy in planning. All without a lot of resources. The most monumental event came about in the mid 90’s with the creation of the Texas Model, which completely changed everything. It separated us from the rest of the country and our peers. We became the model for the modern-day workforce system.
Q. What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment during your career thus far?
A. It would have to be the talented team that we have created and maintained. We’ve had very little turnover over the years. They have stayed together to serve hundreds of employers and thousands of people.
Q. What’s behind the team – the secret sauce?
A. I think if stems from a culture of open and honest communication. People want to be in the know – what’s happening. I went through a period early in my career where there was no communication and I vowed to never let that happen under my watch. We’ve also benefited from having a strong and supportive board of directors that has also had low turnover. That gives you stability and allows you to do more creative things. Our elected officials have been very supportive throughout the years. I’ve been fortunate to work for some great leaders.
Q. What do you think are the greatest challenges/opportunities the workforce system is currently facing?
A. Right now, employers are beside themselves – they can’t find talent and are seeing the effects of the “great resignation.” The landscape has changed. While this is a challenge, it’s also presented us with a great opportunity to show what the workforce system can do. The situation has opened a lot of doors for us with many employers using us and our job seekers for the first time.
Q. What does the future hold for workforce development in Tarrant County and the Metroplex?
A. Our region’s economy looks so good. Its continuing to grow. New people are coming in from everywhere. Its continuous change. During the Pandemic we quickly move a virtual service delivery platform. We made lots of enhancements and added new tools, and we continue to get better at it. The future is how to blend an effective mix of virtual services with the traditional brick and mortar, to adapt to what the customer needs and wants.
Q. What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
A. Goodness, there’s probably nothing left. I’m a huge Ranges, Texas A&M Aggies, Cowboys, and George Strait fan. Maybe it’s my tap dancing.
Judy McDonald is a native Texan, whose career in workforce development has spanned over 3 decades. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in Arlington. Judy is a Past-President of the Texas Association of Workforce Boards and a Past-President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council.