Job ready

Western Nevada College Computer Information Technology Professor Emily Howarth, left, talks with Skip and Garret Nicholson in the Applied Industrial Technology laboratory at the college during a tour in 2015. The AIT lab is one program where WNC is seeking to train student for new high-tech jobs.

Western Nevada College Computer Information Technology Professor Emily Howarth, left, talks with Skip and Garret Nicholson in the Applied Industrial Technology laboratory at the college during a tour in 2015. The AIT lab is one program where WNC is seeking to train student for new high-tech jobs.

The goal of any economic development effort is the creation of quality jobs. When workers earn good wages, the benefits ripple throughout the community, boosting businesses that range from restaurants to homebuilders.

As most may know, the economic development efforts in northern Nevada have a remarkable record of success since Governor Sandoval and the region’s leaders decided to redouble their job-creation efforts in the wake of the Great Recession.

Now we face another challenge: Making sure that the workers in our communities are ready to step into higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs. As we are able to improve the skills of our existing workforce and help our existing workers move into better-paying jobs, the effects of a successful economic development effort will multiply rapidly.

For starters, we need to understand what sorts of jobs are coming to the new economy of northern Nevada. Once we understand where the demand will be the greatest, we can focus our workforce development efforts on training workers who are in demand by employers. And workers themselves will have more confidence that they can put their new skills to work fairly quickly in a better-paying job after they have invested their time in a training program.

Bob Potts, the research director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, has noted that good data always provides the basis of good decisions for workforce development.

But Potts also acknowledges that development of data about high-demand occupations is a complicated job.

“Often the questions are asked, ‘Does a qualified and available workforce attract great companies, or do great companies grow a qualified and available workforce?’ The answer to both is yes. We must continue to work together in not only improving the state’s business climate, but also the quality of the workforce. Everyone wins when we get on this path,” Potts noted in a recent presentation.

The data so far tells these stories:

• Advanced manufacturing jobs will be big in northern Nevada. Manufacturing may have gotten a bum rap in recent years, but today’s technology-driven manufacturing jobs provide rewarding and challenging work and good pay for skilled workers.

And the demand for those workers in northern Nevada will grow dramatically in the next five years, estimates the EPIC (Economic Planning Indicator Committee) report developed by a group organized by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada last year. More than 10,000 advanced manufacturing jobs will be opening in the region in 2016 and 2017. By 2020, the number of new openings will top 11,500 — in a single year. So far, data reflects that we are on track to meet or exceed these estimates. Big opportunities await workers who begin sharpening their skills today.

Valerie Cotta, who manages workforce development programs for EDAWN, notes that workers with strong skills in the so-called STEM areas — science, technology, engineering and math — are in short supply. That means that pay is likely to increase.

• Engineers and builders will find lots of opportunity. Manufacturing companies need wide varieties of engineering talent — everything from mechanical specialists to keep data centers running to product engineers to keep northern Nevada companies ahead in their markets. Engineering graduates of the University of Nevada, Reno, won’t need to leave town to find good jobs. (And for parents of graduates, this means that grandchildren will be close at hand.)

New companies, meanwhile, mean new construction. New workers who come to the area to fill the positions that we are unable to fill from the existing workforce will need housing. Construction jobs will be plentiful. The Nevada Construction Collaborative launched the site for those in construction to post their resumes, and NCET also recently launched a job board for all types of open positions in the community.

• Workers with advanced skills in logistics will be in high demand. Reno’s geographic advantages as a distribution hub for the West aren’t going away. As the logistics business becomes more technology-driven — think of automated centers that fill Internet orders — workers with training such as that provided by Truckee Meadows Community College will be landing responsible, good-paying positions.

• Openings will continue to abound for healthcare workers. A growing population and an aging Baby Boom generation will stoke demand for skilled healthcare workers who have completed certificate and degree programs at public colleges and universities as well as private-sector institutions.

The EPIC study projects that hospitals alone will add more than 400 positions in northern Nevada in 2017. Add in the need for workers at other healthcare facilities, and the region might need to fill more than 4,000 healthcare jobs in 2019.

We hope that existing residents of northern Nevada can fill as many of these positions as possible, as well as the thousands of jobs that will be opening in other fields.

We still have time to enhance the skills of workers who are committed to making an investment in themselves to improve their future.

And we have a solid infrastructure in place to undertake the training and development of the workforce for our future.

Worker by worker, company by company, we will build the workforce we need.

Nancy McCormick is vice president of business expansion, retention and workforce at the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. Contact her at or 775-829-3719.


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