As a Workforce Innovation Fund recipient, Nevada will receive a $100,000 grant.
Since last spring, when the coronavirus pandemic rocked Nevada’s economy and led to a historic 30% unemployment rate in April 2020, the state has been working especially hard to help put tens of thousands of Nevadans back to work.
While the state’s jobless rate dropped to 9% by December and to roughly 8% by February, Nevada’s economic and workforce development officials have not eased their job recovery efforts.
The latest example came in March, when Nevada was one of nine states selected for the inaugural cohort of the Workforce Innovation Network. Launched by the National Governors Association (NGA) and supported by Cognizant U.S. Foundation, the network is designed to “help states build capacity for near-term innovation and longer-term strategies to prepare their workforces for a post-COVID-19 economy.”
“The goal for us is to really shape some new opportunities and get our dislocated workers into programs and training that will align with new career paths for them,” Isla Young, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation (OWINN), told the NNBW. “What we’re seeing is a lot of our Nevadans that have possibly been in the same career path or working in hospitality for 20-something years now are faced with, ‘what might I transition into?’”
After all, the pandemic led to a wave of layoffs in many sectors, none worse than the leisure and hospitality industry, one of the state’s biggest economic drivers.
While this year’s decrease in COVID cases and increase in vaccinations has helped add jobs to the market, it’s nowhere where it was pre-COVID. Case in point: the tourism-reliant Vegas market was still down 99,900 jobs last December when compared to the number of jobs it had in January 2020, according to OWINN.
What’s more, a year into the pandemic, 65% of Nevadans who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19 state job availability as the primary reason preventing them from finding work.
Further, 39% cite lack of education, skills or certification as at least one factor hindering them from finding a job, according to the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).
GOED contracted with Growth Services Group, a national workforce intelligence consultant, to commission a labor supply study to develop an accurate and comprehensive analysis of the state’s workforce condition.
“With that data, folks like us — and this great state team that we have — are tasked with, how do we respond?” said Stacy Bostwick, director of workforce development at GOED. “Having a real clear understanding has been helpful. Not just anecdotes or just job numbers — those don’t get into the weeds of each individual or the impact on different types of industry members.”
As a Workforce Innovation Fund recipient, Nevada will receive a $100,000 grant. This, Young said, will be used to support personnel and project planning to carry out the state’s innovations.
In the process, the state will receive support developing a state action plan and policy recommendations as well as virtual or in-person site visits and regular coaching calls from NGA Center staff and national experts and consultants.
Currently, Nevada officials are in the process of looking at its existing workforce development systems in the state and “really addressing some of the needs and gaps,” Young said.
To that end, Young said the state’s public-private partnership is also top of mind.
“We’re really making sure programs that are developed align with actual need with our high growth, high demand industries,” said Young, citing healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, logistics and skilled trades. “We’re very interested in being much more innovative in how programs are shaped in those key areas. More importantly, that the skills that these folks are learning really are needed.”
Bostwick said the state is focused on creating a sustainable infrastructure and workforce pipeline for those aforementioned industries targeted for growth and future investment.
“That, to me, is probably the most important piece,” Bostwick said. “Because we will never ‘fix’ the problem of lack of availability if we don’t actually have a training program or we don’t have a vehicle to provide the skills that they (companies) are looking for, so we can begin to peck away at the nagging issue of supply and demand and not enough skills in the right places.”
Young said planning for the project will run through July, when the state plans to launch Nevada Job Force, an initiative to “coordinate state, local, nonprofit and private job training and placement assets for improved service delivery to jobseekers.”
“Our job is to help Nevadans and connect them with opportunity and to make sure that we have a healthy economy,” Young said. “How we can get folks back to work quickly and in possibly a new very exciting career path? Also, if this happens again in the future, how can we be really prepared to shift and maneuver where needed?”
The other eight states in the inaugural Workforce Innovation Network cohort are Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington.