Background & Bio
Celina Gamez is an Abilene native and graduate of Abilene High. She’s also a 2015 graduate of Abilene Christian University and has been employed at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas for the last decade.
Gamez worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas for about a year but otherwise her entire career has been at Workforce Solutions, beginning at age 21 as a temp working the front desk.
“I’ve had almost every job possible, done a little of everything,” she said. In 2016, at age 26, she moved to her current position of managing director.
Gamez manages all Workforce Solutions offices in West Central Texas, which includes four physical offices – Abilene, Brownwood, Sweetwater, Snyder – and spans 19 counties. She sees her work as a contribution to individuals and to the greater community.
“Our primary function is connecting people who are unemployed or seeking training or just wanting a better job with employers,” Gamez said. “We work with employers and candidates, helping with the job search, looking for scholarships, connecting with training for in-demand jobs, posting jobs, hosting hiring fairs. We are different than the unemployment office, which is a common misconception.”
Her work doesn’t end with her own work- place, however, as she’s begun to find her place in the professional and volunteer groups in Abilene.
“Abilene Young Professionals, which I joined at the end of last year, has been so great as far as networking. I’ve met so many people,” she said.
She’s also active on the board for Work Again West Texas, which is currently on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Gamez said was off to a great start by working with home- less neighbors in the area to find jobs and connecting them with workforce solutions. The initiative is a partnership with Goodwill Industries. The eight-member board finds neighbors in need, matches them with a mentor and finds individuals to partner with Goodwill so the neighbors can get paid for various jobs while learning work and life skills.
“The variety of work we do is our biggest chal- lenge,” Gamez said of Workforce Solutions.
Their clientele ranges from the completely unem- ployed to those working in a less than ideal cir- cumstance, in addition to employers looking to hire and customers who simply want training.
“We also navigate that variety of needs over such a widespread area. We serve customers as far as Knox City,” Gamez said. “This current situation, however, is helping us explore options to connect pieces of the counties we serve better, now that we can do it remotely.”
Those obstacles existed before Covid-19 affected the economy and people’s jobs. Now, the urgency and necessity of Workforce Solutions has increased.
“We’ve been flooded with calls,” she said. “Lay- offs started happening even before the shelter- in-place. Even early on we were seeing as many as 10 layoffs a day. We have some people who are going to go back to work when this is over, but we also have some employers saying ‘You’ll have to reapply for your job.’ We’ve changed our operation procedures where previously we would have people register; now we’ve made it simpler where people can go through the website, skip- ping some of the middle ground to make it as easy as possible to connect.”
Focus on the Future
Gamez and her husband, Amador, have three daughters, ranging from one to 11 years old, and a boy due to arrive in August, so she has much to look forward to in the immediate future.
For her workplace and hometown of Abilene, she hopes the future is characterized by connectedness.
“When I go and do presentations or meet community groups, they have no idea what we do,” Gamez said. “Most other agencies don’t realize we offer scholarships, help with rent, sponsor students to go to school. I wish we could bring more of these things together. There are so many new opportunities for growth professionally and socially. I hope we’re able to bring people together and foster a sense of community from the revitalization in all areas of town. At Workforce Solutions, we look forward to connecting with Abilene through new mentors, partners and serving the best way we can.”