Sandoval Focuses On Workforce Development
Truckee Meadows Community College already has programs in place to train students for Nevada's changing economy.
During Governor Brian Sandoval's final State of the State Address, he outlined a plan to develop a stronger workforce. Since 2011, Nevada has recruited 204 companies that have created 38,000 jobs. Tesla's gigafactory already employs 1,000 people, with more hires on the way. To create enough qualified workers for the growing technology and advanced manufacturing industry, Sandoval is budgeting $21 million toward training programs at the state's four community colleges.
"Academic programs offered by our higher education institutions, particularly our community colleges, must be closely aligned with our economic development strategy," Sandoval said during Tuesday's speech.
Truckee Meadows Community College already has programs in place to train students for Nevada's changing economy, including the Panasonic Preferred Pathway Program.
"It's a repackaging of our existing curriculum that meets exactly what Panasonic needs for their Level 1 and Level 2 employees, and those amount to a total of ten credits," Kyle Dalpe, Dean of Technical Sciences at TMCC said.
Dalpe says flexibility is important, allowing students to finish the first four credits, or 80 hours, in two weeks or one semester. Dalpe says TMCC's classes will be able to continue because of the state funding, since some of the technology and manufacturing programs are paid for with grants and private funding.
"That funding doesn't go on forever," Dalpe said. "So we need to be able to sustain these programs once the grant expires, so to speak. To do that, the additional funding will kick in at a time when some of these grants are expiring and we can keep these programs going."
The distribution of funds is based on enrollment. TMCC will receive $4.4 million over the next two years, Western Nevada College will get $2.28 million, Great Basin College will get $4.03 million, and College of Southern Nevada will get $10.68 million.
Now that the jobs are here, the governor's office says it is time to produce the workers to fill them.
"If we want to provide these opportunities for Nevadans, we have to provide the opportunities for them to get the education and the training they need in order to take these jobs," Steve Hill, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development said.
The funding is specific to construction, mechanic repairs technology, precision production, and transportation and material moving. A large emphasis for TMCC is Production Systems, Robotics, and Advanced Manufacturing. All fall into the required categories.
"That is one that we train people to work out at the gigafactory for Tesla and for Panasonic, and a lot of those other companies that are coming in with some big numbers and we have to keep that going," Dalpe said.
Nevada's unemployment rate is down to 5.1 percent, meaning there are more jobs available than qualified applicants.
"We're doing a number of things at the college to try to build that pipeline," Dalpe said. "The need is in the thousands. The pipeline is in the hundreds. We have capacity to put more people in that pipeline and we're looking to do that."
Dalpe says the funding is needed for a variety of reasons. One of them is the cost of equipment. TMCC wants to train its students on the same equipment that they will use after graduation. That equipment is very costly, and technology can change very quickly.
"We were working with one of the major employers and trying to get something to match what they were using in their facility, so we could train students, and in the time we did the bid process, we had to stop and go back and redo it because something had changed so fast in the field," Dalpe said.
TMCC is offering flexible class hours and dual enrollment for high school students who want to take college technology classes, and receive credits for both.
"Then if they decided they want to go to the university, they have a skill," Dalpe said. "If they decide to go straight to the workforce, they have a skill that puts them in one of those jobs."
Tesla is also expanding its operations at the gigafactory, producing electric motors and gear boxes for the Model 3. Dalpe says TMCC is working with Tesla to create coursework to train people to fill those jobs.