Sandoval Column: Workforce investment for Nevada’s future
One of the most serious issues we confront in our state is helping Nevada’s workforce make the leap from the 20th century to the new global economy. Even as we make gains in reducing the unemployment rate through job growth, we must address the underlying issue of workforce readiness. It’s no secret that the world’s economy has changed. Nevada’s workforce must change with it.
The federal Workforce Investment Act provides a framework for how federal dollars reach Nevada’s workers for training and development purposes. In Nevada, we have a statewide Workforce Investment Board. We currently also have two “local” or regional boards, known as Workforce Connections in Southern Nevada and Nevadaworks here in the northern part of the state. Nevada annually receives almost $30 million from the federal government to fund these programs.
Since taking office, my goal has been to ensure that as much funding as possible is reaching those who need it – workers who are seeking new skills for the new economy, particularly the unemployed who are seeking re-entry into the workforce and youth in search of a new life. Toward that end, I requested an internal audit of the workforce investment boards within the first few months of taking office. The results were extremely disappointing. Far too much money was being spent at the local level on overhead and administration; insufficient dollars reached the service provider agencies and worker training programs.
As a result, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), headed by Frank Woodbeck, has developed a new plan for approval by the U.S. Department of Labor. Because workforce investment is linked to economic development, the plan mirrors our economic development plan released earlier this year. Even the names are synonymous. “Moving Nevada Forward: A Plan for Excellence in Workforce Development” will serve as a companion guide to the efforts of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
The plan details our strategy to gain efficiencies and transition from the current system of three boards to a structure that utilizes one statewide governance board. This will allow us to redirect nearly $5 million in federal funding annually – putting funds directly toward improved training and assistance for jobseekers. We will achieve this through decreased administrative layers and costs. New performance measures are also being brought into play.
Even as we consolidate the governance boards and cuts costs, it is important to note that:
• The two service areas (north and south) will remain the same;
• Dollars allocated to the two areas will remain unchanged; and
• Service providers (often nonprofit organizations) who have successfully delivered services will still be solicited to respond to Requests for Proposals in order to serve their communities, but with increased funding in most cases.
In addition, we will make better use of perhaps our strongest and most flexible workforce training component – the community college system. This is in keeping with my administration’s philosophy that higher education must play a role in economic development. We will increase collaboration with the community colleges in particular – part of a growing effort at the federal level as well.
We will also expand community participation. Seven new sector councils are being established to bring private-sector specialists to the table as well. These councils align with the economic development plan and are designed to provide “industry intelligence” about training needs and opportunities in business. Areas like health care, where Nevada has serious workforce quality and quantity deficits, will benefit soonest from these changes.
The end result of our plan will be more dollars reaching those who need them, streamlined delivery systems, innovative pilot training programs, and public/private partnerships that ensure we are meeting the requirements of the modern economy. Just as we are moving Nevada forward in new ways on the economic development front, we will move the state – and its workforce – forward with new skills. And we will continue to modernize state government along the way; DETR will improve the “one-stop shop” resource center concept and provide more comprehensive services to customers.
Our statewide plan is currently under review by the local boards. New leadership at Workforce Connections and Nevadaworks has been able to trim administrative costs, while working with DETR on the new plan. I and DETR Director Frank Woodbeck hope to move forward with U.S. Department of Labor approval after July 1. Nevadans deserve the most efficient and innovative systems we can put in place. In the case of workforce development, our very future rides on the outcome.
• Gov. Brian Sandoval can be reached through his website, gov.nv.gov.