Workforce development to be focus of 2017 legislative session

Workforce development is expected to take center stage during the 2017 legislative session.

According to Dale Erquiaga, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief strategy officer, in his final session the governor will focus on improving the way the state helps prepare workers for Nevada’s diversifying economy.

“We talk a lot about a skills gap. Today we think about a third of Nevadans have some level of college. Within five years, 60 percent to 65 percent will require a post-secondary education. That’s a 30 to 35 percent gap,” Erquiaga told attendees at Northern Nevada Development Authority’s monthly breakfast at the Carson Nugget Wednesday.

Erquiaga said he expect to see proposals for both K-12 and higher education, both public and private, and for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

He implored businesses to get involved.

“Here’s the most important part. That workforce development system does not work without business input,” said Erquiaga. “We need business to participate so that the product we produce, I hate to use that word, is the product you want to buy.”

Action also will target training for careers in specific industries, including manufacturing and healthcare.

“If you think the teacher shortage is bad, the nursing and doctor shortage should keep you up at night,” he said. “We appreciate 43 nurses, but we need 8,000 more.”

Erquiaga was referring to Western Nevada College, which this year graduated 43 registered nurses, 20 of whom have been hired by Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

“If that’s not local workforce development, I don’t know what is,” said Chet Burton, president, WNC.

Burton said the school is also working to expand its manufacturing programs to meet the needs of employers like Tesla Motors.

“We brought in robotics, 3D printing, fast-track welding, soft skills,” he said.

Burton said in 2014 the school graduated 350 students from its manufacturing programs.

Then the Tesla factory was announced and the need for 5,000 to 6,000 jobs with it.

“The 350 we’re turning out is probably not going to make it,” Burton said. “It’s a wake-up call for higher education.”

One solution is to start preparing high school students for careers in manufacturing and other fields.

WNC is already working with Carson High School on the Jump Start College program, which allows high school students to earn college credits by taking classes at the college.

He said that program ramped up fast to 150 students, who are finishing the program at a 95 percent rate.

And in the fall Carson High is starting up a manufacturing elective program to be run by John Doiron.

Michele Lewis, administrator, CTE programs at Carson City School District, said 121 students made manufacturing their first choice for an elective class this fall.

“We’re super excited about this program and we’re super excited about bringing John on board,” she said.


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