Recycling With Break It Down Austin

Break-It-Down_Austin-logoI recently found myself staring out of the doorway to my office at a giant stack of boxes and old vinyl banners. They had been staring at me for weeks asking me, in my mind, what was to become of them. The boxes weren’t a problem and were dispatched quickly when I finally sprung into action, but the banners were another matter.

I opened our storage closet to find a quiet place for them to die and unearthed another wealth of vinyl banners that had been collecting dust for years. Another quick look around the office revealed more vinyl banners that had been furtively stashed in closets, left in isolated corners, or hidden behind furniture. See, they’re too big and pricey to just be trash, but once a banner proclaiming, “Welcome to the 2008 _____” has been used, it’s done. But they’re hard to just toss, so they all get…”stored”. Not wanting to store them any longer and feeling awful about the prospect of just tossing out 30 large vinyl banners, I decided to find out if there was anybody that could recycle them.

The local print shops that produce these banners seemed like a good place to start, but turned out to be a pretty fruitless endeavor that yielded no leads. So, I went to the interwebs and a brief search led me to an article about a partnership between a Whole Foods in North Carolina and a local recycling agency called the Barefoot Press. The article was from 2008, but they were definitely recycling vinyl and it seemed like a pretty good possibility that it was still going on. I decided to call the Whole Foods in Austin to see if a similar program had been initiated here.

At Whole Foods, I was eventually channeled to a lovely woman whose name has now disappeared along with the yellow sticky note it was written on. (Sorry for the journalistic oversight.) Anyway, we had a brief conversation where she knew nothing of a program of that nature in Austin but agreed to look into the matter and get back to me with any information she found. I had little hope of hearing back from her. There was really nothing to be gained by her helping me. It turns out I was quite wrong, though. My Whole Foods contact did call back, the next day, and informed me that Whole Foods had recently unloaded some vinyl banners of their own to a new recycling agency called Break It Down Austin (@BreakItDownAustin) and provided me with the contact information for Jeff Paine.

I spoke briefly with Jeff and he agreed to take our vinyl banners and I obliged him. Perhaps this is an overly verbose way to thank Jeff at Break It Down Austin and Whole Foods for their time and efffort, but I wanted to make sure and let everyone know that there is now a place in Austin to recycle your vinyl banners. This is a big deal for us, because we use vinyl banners for all of our events and we hate to create trash if there is another option. So, please take your own used banners to the nice people at Break It Down Austin. Thanks Jeff!


John-Scott Horton
Director of Marketing, Skillpoint Alliance

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Statesman Article Highlights Need for Skilled Trades

Workforce chairman: Manufacturing, skilled trades key to Texas economy


Published: 8:41 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

[This article can be found at:

Manufacturing is the key to Texas’ economic future, but a shortage of skilled workers demands a new emphasis on skilled trades in public schools, several witnesses told state lawmakers Thursday.

“We have steadily de-emphasized vocational and technical training, preferring to pursue a one-size-fits-all approach, which says that everyone should attend a four-year university,” said Tom Pauken, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission.

Although Texas lost 250,000 manufacturing jobs over the past decade, manufacturing firms are complaining of a shortage of skilled workers, Pauken told the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development.

The hardest jobs to fill in the U.S. are for skilled trades, Pauken said, citing the 2011 Manpower Group report. He said teaching skilled trades, such as welding, pipefitting and electrical work, in public schools could affect the dropout rate by giving students a chance to train for a good-paying job.

Pauken’s testimony came as the House committee is studying how well Texas has promoted development in its six industry clusters and whether other industries should get special attention.

Those clusters are aerospace and defense; advanced technologies and manufacturing; biotechnology and life sciences; energy; information and computer technology; and petroleum refining and chemical products.

Pauken said Texas has been turning to community colleges to train workers when an employer moves to the state.

“We need to do more than fill in the gaps on an ad hoc basis,” Pauken said. “We must have a long-term plan that begins educating young Texans in skilled trades long before we get a call from an employer telling us that the local labor market isn’t meeting its needs.”

Pauken said public schools should offer more courses in skilled trades and create separate performance tests — one for students who plan to attend college and one for students in skilled trades.

Several representatives of the state’s manufacturing sector echoed Pauken’s testimony.

On another topic, Austin lawyer Pike Powers, an economic development expert, warned that portions of Texas outside the large metro areas are getting left behind.

Powers said the state should ensure that resources, such as high-speed computers at the University of Texas, are shared. He noted that the Texas Advanced Computing Center has three times the capacity of the state’s other public universities combined.

“We’ve got to pay attention to the rest of Texas,” Powers said.

Powers also provided a “Texas Performance Scorecard” by Harvard professor Michael E. Porter, an expert in industry clusters.

It showed that through 2009, Texas was good at job creation and new business formation but needs improvement in productivity and innovation.

Powers said innovation requires quantity, quality and velocity — the ability to transform innovation into new products and services quickly.

Texas is good at the first two, but it’s “very bad” at creating products and services quickly from its innovations, he said.

“That is a major reason why our global competitors seem very close in the rearview mirror,” Powers said.

He suggested that the state should emphasize industry clusters by promoting a dozen regional research parks as public-private partnerships.

He said choosing a cluster is “not central planning, socialism or ‘picking winners.'”

“A cluster is already a proven winner,” Powers said. “A cluster initiative is about doing what you would have done anyway, but being able to achieve it five to 10 times faster.”; 445-3617


If you agree with what you just read, make sure and visit our Gateway Homepage to find out how Skillpoint Alliance is contributing.

Some Useful Websites from your Friendly CTTC Staff

By James Noblitt, CTTC Site Coordinator

As all of you know, the internet can be a great resource to find information, but sometimes finding what you need can be an overwhelming experience. To help with this I have compiled a list of websites that contains lots of useful tools and information that can be helpful to both the new and experienced internet user. Below are links for various websites that I have selected as well as brief descriptions of these websites. Enjoy!

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FIRST® Robotics Grant Opportunities

Central Texas FIRST logoWith generous support from Care for Education, an initiative through U.S. FIRST® and the LEGO Foundation, the Technology & Education Executive Council (TEEC) at Skillpoint Alliance is pleased to offer grant opportunities to new FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) teams and new Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL) teams in select areas of Central Texas for the 2011-12 Food Factor Season and 2011-12 Snack Attack Season.

FLL is an international program that introduces children to the fun experience of solving real-world problems by applying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)—with the hope that these young people will pursue higher education and explore STEM careers.  As part of an annual tournament season, FLL teams design, build, and program robots to complete tasks, develop a research project and presentation on a real-world challenge scientists face, and learn to work in teams and display gracious professionalism™.

Read full article…

Visit the Central Texas FLL homepage for full details.

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Gateway: The Playhouse Project to Display Playhouses at The Domain

Gateway: The Playhouse Project logoGateway: The Playhouse Project is getting geared up to begin its inaugural year this fall and we’re very excited to announce a partnership with the wonderful and generous team at The Domain. The upscale shopping center in North Austin has agreed to let Skillpoint Alliance showcase the completed playhouses that will be auctioned off at the end of the Gateway: The Playhouse Project program year.

Details for the partnership are still being developed and will be announced upon their completion, but we wanted to show some love right away. Thank you Domain Team!

If you aren’t familiar with The Domain, check out their website at

If you haven’t heard about Gateway: The Playhouse Project, visit the program’s homepage at
Don’t forget to check out our other great Gateway programs while you’re there.

15th Annual College and Career Expo Approaching!

College & Career Expo 2011 Logo

Since its inception in 1996, Skillpoint Alliance’s College and Career Expo has grown to serve over 3,000 high school juniors  and seniors. Participating students have the opportunity to meet with industry professionals and college recruiters, and they are provided with many resources needed to prepare themselves for career and college readiness.The 2011 College and Career Expo will be Thursday, October 6, 2011, from 9am-1pm at the Palmer Events Center. Mark your calendars!

Students interested in attending college will receive information about college applications, financial aid, and attendance, and a special focus is given to low-income/first generation students. By providing them with resources and information, educators at the College and Career expo give students a boost in college preparations, and get them on the right track to beginning a productive career in the Austin area.

Students also have the opportunity to visit with employers and industry professionals, who serve as career role models by showcasing businesses and services and guiding the interests of student attendees to help them decide on potential career paths they want to take. Industry, government, education, and non-profit representatives are invited to help students explore potential Central Texas career prospects that match their strengths and interests. By starting students on their career paths early, Skillpoint Alliance helps ensure a trained, skilled workforce for the Central Texas businesses of the future.

Skillpoint is excited to be hosting the 15th annual College and Career Expo, and we are still looking for sponsors! Sponsors can sign up by visiting our website, and more information can be found here. We’d also like to thank our primary sponsor, The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, for their continued support of the College and Career Expo. Whether you are a student, educator, or employer, we hope to see you at the Palmer Events Center on October 6, where you can help us build a better Austin workforce.

Gateway Programs

Gateway LogoIf you are aware of who Skillpoint Alliance is, it is likely that you have heard about our Gateway programs. These rapid employment training programs provide an opportunity for people who need a second chance in the workforce and don’t know where to go or how to get started, whether it be people who made a mistake and spent time in jail, or a mother that never entered the workforce and is looking to do so now. I have been at Skillpoint Alliance for almost 2 years now and of all the great programs and events we are a part of, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing these students and their families at a graduation ceremony, with the realization in front of them that they have begun the process of turning their lives around. It is very emotional and very uplifting. We all need a second chance sometimes and it is an honor to be part of an organization that is there to help provide that opportunity.

Lately, our Gateway programs have been expanding and working overtime, meeting a rising demand for training and rapid employment in today’s workforce. (Note to job seekers: Gateway programs provide training, not job placement–though we do try to help with that too) I would like to use this space today to recognize our Gateway staff for all of their hard work and invite any and all of our friends here in Central Texas to come out and join us for one of the many Gateway graduations taking place this fall. All are welcome.

To find out more about how to join Gateway or to attend a graduation, visit or give our offices a call at (512)323-6773 ext. 123. We’d be more than happy to provide you with the information you seek in regards to these wonderful programs.

Educator Institutes Logo2011 Summer Educator Institutes are open for registration now! If you are an educator who wants to connect with Central Texas industry members and discover great new tools and information that will help you prepare your students for the high-demand jobs of our region, then our Educator Institutes are for you. Classes are short, fun, informative, and reasonably priced for educators. Visit our registration page at today to sign up. For more questions, contact Carol Wright at We hope to see you there!

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