Wanted: Good ideas

As I have mentioned in previous articles, Nevadaworks receives its funding from the U.S. Department of Labor through the appropriations process of Congress. This money is a portion of our federal tax dollars returning to northern Nevada. On paper, it is a fairly straightforward process Congress passes an appropriations bill, the President signs it and money is given to the appropriate Executive Department to spend as directed in the bill.

Over the past few years, for several reasons, workforce funding reality has become something much different than a straightforward process. First, specific federal department funding bills seem to have disappeared as Continuing Resolutions have grown. Thus, final dollar amounts to be distributed to agencies such as Nevadaworks become a guessing game until the final bill is approved by Congress and then signed into law, thereby making rational program planning difficult.

Second, what Congress has giveth, Congress can taketh! This is done through a process known as a budget rescission. In the simplest terms, this means that Congress can say "Well, we need some of the money we gave you to be returned, even if you have already spent it." This year, Nevadaworks must calculate the results of three separate rescissions before it can start using its latest appropriations. And as Nevadaworks only receives federal funds, this will be an interesting calculation and will have an impact on the total amounts available for programs.

And third, past overall funding has dictated a focus more on perceived national needs rather than on actual local needs, thereby limiting Nevadaworks' flexibility in promoting local workforce solutions through its funding.

Despite all of this, there is good news with the newly received budget numbers. After the rescissions are complete, Nevadaworks will actually have an increase in funds available for programming for the first time in four years. This means that in addition to meeting the mandatory basic services as required by the Workforce Investment Act, Nevadaworks will also be able to fund training programs beyond the current norm and based mainly on our local needs.

At a recent Nevadaworks board meeting, the predominately business-oriented members gave staff the charge of seeking programs with attributes that most businesses seem to be desperately seeking such as helping individuals acquire the soft work skills/social skills needed in the workplace, developing problem-solving competence, consistent reliability and pride in work in new and emerging job fields.

With this available funding, Nevadaworks is accepting formal proposals for such training. A formal request for proposals will be published in early June, closed in mid-July and programs awarded funding beginning in October. Any individual, partnerships, governmental units, public agencies, business organizations, public or private not-for-profit corporations, local educational agencies, or private for-profit corporations may submit a proposal. Nevadaworks has the expertise to insure that the complexities of the funding process are easily handled so that good ideas can be funded and the workforce better trained. Being from the government, we do understand the process well and we truly are here to help!

So what type of training will Nevadaworks fund? In the past, we have worked with the University of Nevada, Reno, Orvis School of Nursing on a fast-track nursing program, Western Nevada College and its surgical technician program and the electrical apprenticeship building industry certification program. All of these were new and innovative at the time they were begun and all have become ongoing, stand-alone successes that continue to turn out well trained workers to fill critical shortages.

Building on those successes, Nevadaworks encourages training ideas in the green/alternative energy fields, automotive computerization upgrades, modernization of technical skills, innovative basic skills training and any other ideas that will enhance the skills of our current workforce desiring a boost into tomorrow's work categories.

Partnering with agencies is always very beneficial. For example, Truckee Meadows Community College now offers a solar installation certification course and would be very interested in establishing other such courses to aid businesses in developing a better-trained workforce.

Many companies new to the area continue to seek dependable well-trained individuals in spite of the economic slowdown. Some people who have lost construction jobs may be excellent candidates for training that will enable them to land jobs with these newly arrived firms. Bringing these workers and businesses together through Nevadaworks funded training could bring outstanding long term results.

During this period of change, as local businesses and training institutions adjust to our current and future worker needs, this becomes a great time for northern Nevada to benefit from the soon to arrive federal money. Nevadaworks wants to help.

If you have a training idea in mind, get it ready to present by preparing to answer some basic questions such as: How many unique jobs of what kind are actually open in your field in northern Nevada? Is this a good time to offer new training to employees who are currently underworked but will be needed once business picks up? Is the training specific to your company and does it have long term benefits to just those employees or is it more broadly based? How will this program be sustained after initial funding is over?

Any combination of ideas that further the skill levels of workers and bring benefits to local businesses and our regional economy will be considered. This is a perfect time to take positive action for a positive business future.

Now that you know the details, contact me at 775-284-1340 (tom@nevadaworks.com) and ask to receive our request for proposals. Who knows, that could turn out to be one of the best requests you make for your business!

Tom Fitzgerald is chief executive officer of Nevadaworks.


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