Nevada program aims to move low-wage workers into high-paying jobs

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada is working to help solve the state’s labor shortage through programs to move low-wage workers into more skilled, higher-paying jobs.

“We need to reach into the population of the underemployed, the working poor, to show them the way to a career and to help then get there,” said Frank Woodbeck, executive director, workforce development, Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), speaking at the monthly Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) breakfast on Feb. 28 at the Carson Nugget.

Woodbeck said NSHE is working with the Department of Health and Human Services on a pilot program to identify recipients of the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP, to take a 16-week manufacturing training program. The program was launched in January with 22 individuals, almost half of whom are women, said Woodbeck.

The program covers the students’ fees. This first phase of the pilot is funded by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“If you take someone and put them in a career paying $15 to $16 an hour or $18 to $19, that’s a big swing,” said Woodbeck. “There are opportunities in this state, and the majority will not require a four-year degree and many won’t require a two-year degree.”

NNDA and Western Nevada College (WNC) are working on a similar program called ROADS, for Realizing Opportunities for the American Dream to Succeed.

The goal is to work with local partners to identify the same type of candidates who are underemployed and get them into certificate programs at WNC.

“Solving our workforce issue is about lifting up families,” said Rob Hooper, president and CEO, NNDA.

NNDA is working with state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, and Assemblyman Al Kramer, R-Carson City, on a bill draft request for the 2019 session of the Nevada Legislature, to establish a seed fund with ongoing expansion and possibly including an annual State General Fund allocation for the program.

Shelly Aldean, chair, Capital C.I.R.C.L.E.S. Initiative, is vice chair of the ROADS work group.

At the breakfast, she talked about C.I.R.C.L.E.S., which does similar work. Its Getting Ahead program is a 15-week program providing financial and other skills education to help pull motivated individuals out of poverty, whether it’s generational or situational. After the class, each person is paired with an ally who commits to help and support them for at least 24 months.

The mission, said Aldean, is self sufficiency.

“It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it,” Aldean told the audience. “The goal is to transform lives.”

It also saves money. According to Aldean, moving a family off all kinds of public assistance can save $33,801 annually.

“This model works. It is time consuming and requires dedication and assistance, but we’ve failed people by giving them a hand out rather than a hand up,” said Aldean.


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