Workforce development

Nevadaworks operates under the Workforce Investment Act which is the latest in a long history of federal workforce training programs. These federal workforce programs have been in existence for at least sixty years:

1946 - The Employment Act of 1946

President Roosevelt set the post-war economic goal of full and stable national productivity, income and employment. President Truman supported this goal, responding to the predictions of massive post-war unemployment and reaffirmed the nation's commitment to full utilization of its material and human resources through enactment of the Employment Act of 1946.

1962 - Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962 (MDTA)

The Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962 endeavored to train and retrain thousands of workers unemployed because of automation and technological changes.

1973 - Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA)

A program designed to assist economically disadvantaged, unemployed or underemployed persons. CETA provided block grants to state and local governments to support public and private job training.

1983 - Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA)

JTPA provided job-training services for economically disadvantaged adults and youth, dislocated workers and others who faced significant employment barriers. The act sought to move jobless individuals into permanent self-sustaining employment.

1998 - Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA)

The purpose of the WIA is to enable each state and locality to develop a unified training system that will increase the employment, retention and earnings by individuals and as a result improve the quality of the workforce, reduce welfare dependency, and enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the nation. WIA significantly changed the responsibilities and governance structures, requiring stronger, business-driven board structures at the state and local levels. The act shifted more control to the local boards, emphasizing stronger connections with economic development and employer services.

Every one of these programs had the common element of training individuals to ensure higher incomes that would improve living conditions and the overall economic good of the country. Every one of these programs succeeded to some degree in achieving these goals. Every one of these programs was designed to improve upon the successes of the predecessor program. Every one of these programs at inception had sufficient individuals in need of work and training. Every one was built on new individuals arriving in the workplace. Every one would fail businesses' current needs.

Today's workforce is aging, often dissatisfied, falling behind in training and is being passed by the workforce skills and productivity of workers in many other countries. Our workers need constant upgrading of job skills just to handle workplace demands. When President Roosevelt envisioned the jobs that would benefit from his Employment Act, they were fairly typical manufacturing positions, routinely Monday through Friday, eight- to 10-hours-per-day jobs that would be careers for people who, once trained, were usually fully trained.

Contrast that to the 21st century information-based jobs that often require new training before the current training is over. Many of today's jobs use new technologies that are old within six months and are in production categories that did not exist last year. Training a workforce today is more of a challenge than ever before. And that is the good news!

If you observe many company meetings today, you will often note the substantial number of individuals from the Boomer generation who have made it to management positions and are leading most discussions. Some forward thinking organizations also have older GenX'ers in management. What is usually missing are the up- and-coming individuals age 35 and under who will be the managers/leaders of the future.

The next time you are in a meeting populated by these older individuals, project five to 10 years ahead and imagine how many of these people will still be working at those jobs. Try and anticipate who will replace them. Are those younger workers now in training for leadership positions or is the organization hoping they will materialize as needed? Workforce demographics over the next 10 years are not positive. Many more Boomers will retire or move on to less demanding positions. GenXer's, if they continue current attitudes, won't be sufficient in numbers to supply replacement managers let alone workers. The oldest Millennials entering the workforce will be 35 and not seasoned enough to be in control.

Think back to your job training. You became much better at performing assigned tasks as you went through the inevitable trial-and-error periods. Wisdom grew from each new experience. Mentors helped show you the way until your skill became second nature.

Tomorrow's future workforce needs strong guidance now. Many managers and owners complain about the dissatisfied workers who are poorly trained and skill-challenged. They seek copies of themselves. If they look beyond these current individuals, they will see there are no others available to fill company needs. Therefore, a resolve to improve work skills of those available must be the guiding principle at all levels of training/mentoring.

There is hope beyond the gloom. Businesses must start now to identify future workforce needs.

Anticipation of training needs for tomorrow's workers is vital. New individuals should be hired prior to needing them. Aging workers must be used to mentor them to prepare for the transitions that will occur. Workers need and desire a reason to be excited about a career and a strong mentoring program can build that excitement.

The benefits to businesses of an excited, committed, well-trained workforce will be well worth all efforts. We don't need another federal training program. Instead we need to utilize the assets currently available and make sure the skills for tomorrow are identified and taught. By challenging your business to achieve beyond today it will have a better chance of being here tomorrow.

Tom Fitzgerald is chief executive officer of Nevadaworks, the workforce development agency for northern Nevada.


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