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Tim Burke: Nevada funded training programs increase income opportunities

Last week we discussed how someone receiving entitlements in Nevada could earn more staying on entitlements than going back to work.

The goal should be to create a way for someone to return back to work but not have to create an additional hardship to do so. In order to get a recipient off entitlements and back into the workforce they will need to find employment that pays them close to the equivalent they receive in entitlements.

Most entry level positions pay minimum wage which is far below the $14 to $15 per hour they receive in benefits.

For someone to get to a higher pay level they need to be able to enter a career field that can progressively increase the worker’s rate of pay from entry levels.

In January of 2017, the governor’s office released a report on the most “in-demand” occupations for Nevada workers.

The 2017 In-demand Occupation and Insights report is a resource for K-12, Career Technical Education (CTE), and post-secondary institutions as well as nonprofits, government entities, and workforce boards to leverage in preparing Nevada’s workforce to make informed decisions about program or training offerings that align to research and labor market data as well as the state’s needs.

The report provides a top-occupations and labor market overview along with a typical entry-level education analysis.

Through the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR), Nevada residents can receive training and certification for these “in-demand” career fields as a benefit. While this is an excellent benefit for Nevada residents, the implementation of the program has multiple levels of government bureaucracy that prevents it from maximizing the benefit for Nevadans.

The funds for the training programs are distributed to DETR from the federal government. So there is already a level of bureaucracy from the feds in budgeting the funds and distributing those funds to each state. Once the funds reach Nevada, DETR distributes a portion of the funds to the two organizations that control how the funds are distributed to the funding partners. The funding partners then handle the process of working with Nevada residents in processing applications for training and contracting with private and public schools to deliver the training.

At each level, a portion of the funds gets diverted to administrative costs. Those costs include office space, support staff, managers, and a multitude of other normal business costs. At the funding partner level, a portion of funds is budgeted for support services. Those services include career counseling, resume writing, basic computer classes, and other support services. Those services are often done at no charge by the schools. The funding partners must meet strict reporting requirements and are evaluated on the success of returning unemployed residents back to work.

Nevada has a variety of schools that deliver career training for the “in-demand” occupations that the governor’s office supports. We have the four-year system of colleges and universities. We also have two-year programs through our community college system. Both are excellent adult education systems but not the best choice for someone that wants to enter a short-term certificate program to return to work.

Those residents are best served by programs that can teach them new skills in a career field that has the potential to raise their income beyond the $15 level so that they can get off entitlements and back into the workforce.

In Nevada, there is a network of state approved post-secondary schools that specialize in career training programs of this type. On the DETR website there are lists of both the funding partners and the training schools that residents can choose from.

At one time most of these services were provided by the Nevada employment offices. You could walk into a state employment office and file for unemployment, receive career counseling, and be placed into a training program. Over the years those offices have had many of their services farmed out to private organizations and businesses. While in theory contracting services out and away from state agencies may lead to greater efficiencies, it has created multiple levels of administration, each taking a portion of the budget.

Here in Pahrump we actually have something closest to the old state-administered system in that you can go to one location to receive benefits to return to work. In Las Vegas, you may end up going to multiple locations filling out multiple pages of paperwork before you receive those benefits.

Career training is an excellent benefit and a proven way for residents to enter or re-enter the workforce with an income potential greater than minimum wage. The state needs to examine how more training dollars can go to residents and eliminate layers of administrative costs.

While much of how we currently administer training programs is tied to federal rules and regulations, our state focus needs to be on maximizing training benefits to residents.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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