By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Local elected officials representing the Northern Nevada workforce development agency have endorsed a plan to restructure the delivery of job training funds to Nevadans, including eliminating the two local boards now involved in the process.
The 13 local elected officials who oversee the northern agency, called Nevadaworks, have unanimously endorsed the consolidation plan put forward by Frank R. Woodbeck, director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR). If approved, the changes are expected to free up $5 million for job training that is now consumed by administrative costs incurred by the two local boards.
“On behalf of the local elected officials of the 13 Northern Nevada counties represented by Nevadaworks, please accept this letter in support of your agency’s plan,” said Norman Frey, chairman of the Nevadaworks board and a Churchill County commissioner, in a letter sent to Woodbeck on June 11.
The statewide Governor’s Workforce Investment Board has also unanimously supported the consolidation plan, which will require a waiver from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Elected officials representing the Southern Nevada workforce agency, called Workforce Connections, are opposing the consolidation effort, however, citing concerns over local control and the potential loss of job training funds in the south.
Gov. Brian Sandoval is strongly in support of the consolidation effort
In an Op-ed column published earlier this month in the Nevada Appeal, he said the plan will not change the structure of the workforce investment areas (one north and one south); and will not change the allocation of funding to the areas, which is set by the Department of Labor.
“This new plan calls for greater collaboration between workforce development and the newly restructured Governor’s Office Economic Development, which earlier this year released its plan under the ‘Moving Nevada Forward’ label as well,” he said. “A key area of focus for my administration is building the type of trained workforce that will support economic diversification.”
Woodbeck said he is pursing the consolidation, outlined in a plan called “Moving Nevada Forward – A Plan for Excellence in Workforce Development” in part because of excessive administrative costs identified in audits of Workforce Connections.
The most recent audit, performed by the state Division of Internal Audits, found that Workforce Connections spent nearly twice as much on administration and monitoring of its programs than its northern counterpart.
But it is also about efficiency and linking job training with the state’s new plan for economic diversification and job growth, he said.
Ardell Galbreth, interim executive director of Workforce Connections since April, has testified that he has made numerous spending reductions at the agency as a result of the audit, including eliminating staff and reducing several six-figure salaries.
Woodbeck said the consolidation plan calls for significant change
Woodbeck said in a telephone interview today that he would like to have the support of both local boards in seeking the waiver from the Department of Labor, but that he will move forward regardless. The wavier will be filed July 1 along with the state’s plan, with a decision expected by the fall.
“Efficiency and effectiveness is really what we’re trying to achieve here,” Woodbeck said. “And it is a change in the system. And when you change anything, people get a little nervous about that.”
The two local boards have been in existence since the Workforce Investment Act was signed into law in 1998.
The consolidation, if approved, will still keep local elected officials involved in the process, including representation on the governor’s board and on the seven Industry Sector Councils created as part of Sandoval’s overall economic diversification and development strategy, he said.
“So it’s really a transferring of the expertise, essentially,” Woodbeck said. “To either the governor’s board or to the Industry Sector Councils. And in fact the governor has agreed to expand the number of local elected officials on the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board. So they will really be the oversight folks and they will have four local elected officials on there from various regions.”
Currently, funding is provided from the federal Department of Labor to the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board and funneled to two local boards, one in Southern Nevada and the other in Northern Nevada. These boards in turn contract with public and private organizations to offer workforce training programs to youth and adult and dislocated workers.
Funding would continue to flow to these public and private organizations under the new consolidation plan.
The U.S. Department of Labor provided about $29.5 million in fiscal year 2011 to Nevada for the programs that are intended to help improve the employability of participants, including both youth and adults.
DETR Director Frank Woodbeck says change is not always easy:
Woodbeck says Gov. Brian Sandoval has agreed to expand local elected representation on the state investment board: