Basics of training

Nevadaworks, as the local workforce development agency, has always been involved with the education system throughout its service area. After all, what is workforce training if not another form of education? The federal funds it receives are to be spent on employer needs for a better trained workforce, thus Nevadaworks' training providers are charged with improving the workforce which is usually a product of local K-12 and higher education schooling. The quality of our educational system has a direct bearing on current and future workers.

As we struggle to spend the stimulus dollars received to help train our unemployed workers, the question of "training for what?" keeps rising. What will be the jobs after the economy recovers? What companies will experience the growth necessary to hire additional employees? What new skills will these workers need?

As local companies talk of expansion and as new-to-the-area employers consider expanding to Nevada, they often question our workforce skills. Many have seen the statistics about the bottom rankings our education system maintains and they wonder if this means the workforce will underperform other areas of the country.

Our response to these concerns focuses on a Workforce Survey ( Nevadaworks commissioned that highlights the substantial number of underemployed individuals in this area with skills far beyond what their current jobs require and the above national average level of four-year-plus degreed individuals. Yes, most individuals in our workforce are well-educated, are willing to continue learning and want to be trained for future jobs.

All of this being said, we still face a very difficult future in the education of our citizens. As the last session of the Nevada Legislature showed, our tax revenues are down dramatically and in the estimate of many, are about to get even worse. K-12 and higher education account for over 30 percent of the entire state budget. Much of that money in the current budget was from the federal stimulus largesse. What will happen when that money is gone?

Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich has stated that if the current level of funding is severely reduced, the likelihood exists that some of our educational institutions might disappear. Besides the fact that this would be a real negative to our future, the economic impact to the local economy would be devastating especially as we are trying to recover from our very own Nevada depression.

How can we prevent such a disaster from occurring? Obviously it is going to take money, lots of money. We are going to have to agree to find more funds and to bear the pain and discomfort that higher taxes produce. We are going to have to solve the problem within our state borders as the federal government will not and should not be our savior. For example, if Nevadaworks spent every cent of its training money the first day it was received, the results would not be noticed for more than a short time due to the extremely large number of those who need training help.

So where do we get the money to keep and improve the current education system? That is a good question for those who next March will be declaring their candidacy to represent us in the state legislature. We must insist that if elected, they will hold proper discussions on our entire tax system and then make appropriate decisions to tax ourselves so we can improve the education of our children and grandchildren, our future workforce.

As a former business owner and elected official, I was in the position every time I voted to raise taxes that I was hitting my home and business with an increase. I bore that burden because I believed so strongly in the need to keep my state at that time competitive with other states.

Business owners and managers always want low costs to help their companies achieve a positive bottom line. Being anti-tax increases is almost a prerequisite to running a business. And yet, if we steadfastly maintain that attitude, we may not have the businesses of which we dream.

We must see beyond the current downturn and envision a workforce that is better educated and highly competitive. We must see our educational institutions growing in respect and improving output so that Nevada becomes the place employers move to for great employees. We must commit to training current employees to keep their skills honed and we definitely must train all new hires in business specific needs so they can become the productive employees we desire who will then fill the after recovery jobs still to be created.

An educated populace will help to continue bringing the types of jobs and careers we all desire. An educated populace will find good solutions to hard problems. An educated populace will look to the future with excitement and glee rather than with fear and anger. An educated populace is in our best interest.

It is time to get angry. Not at each other and not at the great unknowns we feel are surrounding us. Instead, it is time to get angry at waiting for others to solve our problems. Let's get angry and show the rest of the country that we value education and a superb workforce. Let's make the sacrifices now to improve everyone's future in this state. Let's push our leaders to lead and to fund our educational system in a 21st century manner. Let's not take no for an answer.

To paraphrase an old movie line "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more!"

Tom Fitzgerald is chief executive officer of Nevadaworks. Contact him at 337-8600 or through


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