Workforce development program takes shape in Winnemucca

Denise Castle said she estimates a workforce development program in Humboldt County could be launched at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Denise Castle said she estimates a workforce development program in Humboldt County could be launched at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

WINNEMUCCA, Nev. — Humboldt County Workforce Development program group met Sept. 24 to discuss the next steps in formally launching an advisory group to plan and implement workforce training in the county.

Approximately 20 community, business, and government leaders attended the meeting, including Winnemucca City Manager Alicia Heiser, Humboldt County Manager Dave Mendiola and Denise Castle from JOIN Inc.

Executive Director of Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority (NNRDA) Sheldon Mudd said one of the determining factors businesses and industries looking to move to the area is the makeup of the local workforce.

“[Businesses] look to see how many employees are available, what skills we have ... and as you are aware, unemployment rate in northeastern Nevada is extremely low," Mudd said.

Humboldt County's August unemployment rate stood at 3.3%. Mudd said such low unemployment rates can be a deterrent for some business.

A majority of attendees agreed that training a new generation of skilled workers was imperative to the success of economic growth in the county.

However, others expressed an immediate need to attract and retain workers now. The biggest concern besides training attracting workers was affordable housing.

“On the construction side, we're having a difficult time finding skilled tradesmen," local business owner Pat Schommer said. "And on the transportation side of the business, when we find employees willing to move here, we can't find affordable housing for them."

One last focus of the workshop was to develop an organizational structure based on an advisory group who will help to design and launch a work-based learning model.

The work-based learning model will be tailored to the specific needs of Humboldt County. One person from this advisory group will serve on a steering team which will meet once a month with an annual meeting of a coalition. The coalition is all the advisory groups of each county.

Facilitator Betty “B” Gorman kept the group on track by saying there was no need to reinvent the wheel, but the program has to be tailored to fit the specific needs of the area.

“We have a [workforce development program] design right now, but we don't necessarily think the right approach is to say 'here you go, this is what they're doing in Douglas [County], this is what you should do,'" said Gorman, who worked from 2006-2016 as CEO of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce. "We want to hear from your business partners in particular what do they need and then we want to hear from education partners what's feasible here.”

Gorman said the idea behind these meetings was to share information about the resources currently available, to assess what is missing and “you build something that will work for everybody."

The work-based learning program will focus on developing youth programs to encourage young adults to enter the skilled trades.

The program is based on the Swiss model of apprenticeship system. The idea combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

According to the Swiss State Secretariat for Education website, there are more than 230 approved apprenticeship occupations, 70% of Swiss students choose apprenticeships and 40% of all Swiss companies participate in the program.

The apprenticeship program is in partnership with JOIN, Inc. through the Career Bound NV program. JOIN, Inc. serves as an intermediary between industry and education by engaging “students in career exploration, skill development, internships and apprenticeships that ensure [young adults] are ready for employment in Nevada.”

JOIN, Inc.'s Castle said the components to this program are already in place, but it is up to the advisory committee to decide what that components are appropriate for Humboldt County.

“… (Next) steps are pulling in what those components look like that already exist and do they match for Humboldt County, and if they don't perfectly, how do we tweak it and modify it slightly and apply to Humboldt County," she said.

Castle said she estimates a workforce development program in Humboldt County could be launched at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Michelle Cook is a reporter for The Humboldt Sun, a sister publication of the Northern Nevada Business View.


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