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How workforce training can aid recovery

Tom Fitzgerald

Unemployment in Nevada was 13.4 percent in September (vs. 14.9 percent in September 2010) and in Washoe County 12.6 percent, vs. 13.9 percent a year earlier, while 26,800 individuals were classified as unemployed, compared with 30,700 a year earlier. Compared to where we’ve been, this is better, but still not a dynamic recovery.

Nevadaworks is the Northern Nevada Local Workforce Board that receives funds from the U.S. Department of Labor to help train individuals in current job skills through approved providers. Using the above information, you might assume that Nevadaworks’ funded providers would be overwhelmed by individuals seeking training to qualify for current jobs and those jobs hopefully just around the corner. Unfortunately, you would be wrong in your assumption.

Contrary to current perceptions, many area companies are eager to fill their job openings, but the individuals responsible for coordinating such hiring continue to complain about the lack of qualified applicants.

High unemployment, open jobs unfilled, funded training not being unused. What’s going on?

Some statistics indicate that an unspecified number of individuals are leaving this area to move to states with better job opportunities. Others appear to be subsisting on unemployment insurance and are thus not motivated financially to seek training. Still others may be working part-time off the books and are happy with that arrangement. And some may be tired of training after having gone that route and still no job.

With employers, it would be easy to target communication, or lack thereof, as the main culprit. However, most of Nevadaworks’ providers are part of the NevadaEmployerHelp.com group which is continually sending information to over 1,500 local businesses about trainings available throughout this area. These participants work with companies to tailor specific trainings to meet their needs.

Both individuals and employers may not be aware that programs funded through Nevadaworks have no financial cost to the recipients. The Workforce Investment Act was intended to help improve the national workforce so that all who participate in its programs would benefit by having better jobs thus benefitting the national economy. With the grim statistics mentioned above, Nevada has benefitted from an ongoing high level of training funds. Our challenge is to use these funds in the best manner possible so these statistics can be changed for the better.

So collectively, what can we do to better use these funds for the benefit of our community?

First, unemployed individuals need to understand that the job market has changed since they became unemployed regardless of how recently that was. In order to remain competitive, companies are reinventing themselves daily. Yesterday’s skills are not being used today.

Second, employers should not take shortcuts. Hiring part-time workers is perfectly acceptable; paying them cash off the books is not. Trying to save on employee costs in this manner is not only illegal, it gives individuals a lack of respect for the company. Being honest and paying appropriate wages and benefits will bring loyalty to the organization that will be repaid many times over as the economy recovers.

Third, all communications must be improved. Individuals must constantly ask what skill they have that must be honed. They must openly and honestly seek improvement through programs offered from either Nevadaworks’ providers, JobConnect or other sources. They must use the training and implement it into real, everyday situations.

Employers must stop their carping about the lack of qualified individuals and give very specific details of their needs. Often when pressed, employers cannot give clearly defined needs, thus it is nearly impossible to help them. Generalities must be avoided. And when appropriate candidates are available and presented, they must be seriously considered.

In addition, employers must avail themselves of the many additional training funds available for their current workers. These funds can be utilized to give ongoing training tailored to each company. This not only helps the employer remain competitive but it also give employees skills that make them overall more valuable to the company.

This continues to be a trying time for our region. We all thought the bad phase would have ended by now and a return to the good life would be upon us. Events are proving otherwise. Rather than give in to the negative, I encourage everyone to utilize the training funds we receive to the max as they may not last forever. Now is the time to work together – individuals and employers because once the funds are gone, it will be too late.

Tom Fitzgerald is chief executive officer of Nevadaworks. Contact him through http://www.nevadaworks.com.

NevadaEmployerHelp.com partner agencies:

* CenterPoint Community (www.centerpointcommunity.com)

*The Children’s Cabinet (www.childrenscabinet.org)

* Community Services Agency (www.csareno.org)

* Great Basin College (www.gbcnv.edu)

* ItsAboutJobs.com

* JOIN, Inc. (www.join.org)

* Nevada Association of Employers (www.nae-online.org)

* Nevada Industry Excellence (www.NevadaIE.com)

* Northern Nevada Human Resources Association

* ProNet (www.pronetreno.com)

* Truckee Meadows Community College (www.tmcc.edu/wdce/customtraining)

* UNR Extended Studies (www.extendedstudies.unr.edu)

* Western Nevada College (www.wnc.edu/ce/)