Economic experts: Nevada fastest state for growing job development
LVN Editor Emeritus
FALLON, Nev. — A panel discussing the area’s workforce and what’s being done to match prospective employees with the right jobs highlighted the Aug. 8 meeting of the Churchill Economic Development Authority’s Business Council.
The monthly breakfast meeting featured Bob Potts, research director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED); Kristina Carey, a master teacher, with Nevada Teach at the University of Nevada, Reno; and Denise Castle, executive director of JOIN, a nonprofit workforce development agency.
Potts said workforce development aligns itself with economic development priorities.
Potts, though, limited most of his discussion to a six-county area — Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey and Washoe — and also spent part of his presentation on Churchill County.
He said while the state unemployment rate earlier this year was 4.5 percent, he said the combined rate in the six counties is 3.7 percent, while Churchill County has lowered its rate to 3.8 percent.
This is in contrast to eight years ago when Nevada’s unemployment rate was one of the highest in the nation at 14.4 percent and 14.1 percent in Churchill County. While the rest of the state has also seen a growth in its workforce since 2010, he said Churchill County is slowly trending upward.
“Churchill County is 1,400 jobs below its peak (2008) before the recession,” Potts said, referring to the Great Recession that began in December 2007 and extended into 2009 but beyond for some states and counties.
Since that time, however, Potts said Nevada is the fastest state for growing job development. This is based on 90 consecutive months, and for 71 months, Nevada has outpaced the nation.
He said Nevada has been undergoing a structural change in employment that’s adding more resiliency to the state being able to withstand any downturn in the economy due to a recession or other factors.
Since 2010, Potts said 54,000 jobs have been added including 18,000 in logistics and 13,500 in manufacturing. He pointed out, for example, the state has also increased the number of information technology jobs.
He said the tourism, gaming and entertainment sector, however, is losing ground to higher paying jobs in other sectors, while wages in those sectors has doubled.
Potts said strategic occupation drivers are also affecting how new businesses eye their future in coming to Nevada. At the top of the list, Potts said, is a qualified workforce followed by a competitive cost environment, favorable and/or available logistics, favorable business climate and quality of life.
He said data collected by the government at all levels has shown an increased need for workers in manufacturing, logistics and IT and what education and training are needed to meet future needs.
“Companies are expanding or relocating based on the bottom line,” he said.
According to Potts, the top 100 occupations examined entry-level education needs. The highest category is middle skills (40 percent) where more employees are needed who have a high-school diploma but have less than a bachelor’s degree.
He said employees within middle skills may receive on-the-job training or some type of work-based instruction. The next level (30 percent) requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for professional and white collar jobs.
With GOED putting together the data on Nevada’s ongoing and future economic development, Castle said JOIN is improving the prosperity for all Nevadans by working with employers to identify their needs and the training required for new employees.
“We focus on training, accreditation, licensure and certification,” Castle said.
She said JOIN has formed relationships with Western Nevada College, Truckee Meadows Community College, the University of Nevada, Reno and other educational institutions throughout Northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe Basin. JOIN also partners with employers.
“We’re building a skilled workforce to meet the needs of the new Nevada economy,” she said. “We focus on all industries and careers.
Castle said JOIN works closely with its industry partners to understand what their needs. She said JOIN works with career training, not with job placement.
“We work more closely on training individuals,” she said. “We want to educate individuals in our communities of the opportunities that exist.
She added JOIN offers skilled and work-ready people, and the agency focuses on all industries.
Carey said the idea that everyone in high school must go to college and earn a degree is old school. She said high schools prepared students for a four-year college, but the diverse economy is changing that. She cited one example of a 20-year-old who is earning more money in his trade that she would ever earn in education.
“Charges are occurring,” Carey said. “It’s not about the four-year degrees but about training.”
Carey said white collar jobs only account for about 8 percent of the needed workforce.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.