A total of 74 cities, counties, and states are set to raise their minimum wages in 2021, many to $15 per hour or more. Nevada’s top minimum wage rose to $9.75 July 1. (Photo: Ronda Churchill)
As the economy begins to rebound following the pandemic and both state and federal governments assess the damage from record job loss, Gov. Steve Sisolak said some workers will need to acquire additional skills to secure new job opportunities.
Speaking alongside the U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, the two announced Tuesday during a roundtable at the College of Southern Nevada Charleston campus that Nevada’s Office of Workforce Innovation (OWINN) will receive a nearly $4 million grant to develop, modernize and diversify apprenticeship programs.
“We have a lot of folks who lost their jobs and some of those jobs aren’t coming back,” Sisolak said. “We are counting on OWINN and the community colleges to give them the skills they need to get these jobs.”
The funding will help finance apprenticeship opportunities in health care, manufacturing and information technology. Walsh said the Department of Labor is awarding $130 million to grants and Nevada is one of 15 states receiving funding.
Sisolak said community colleges, while long underfunded and underappreciated, allow people to get the training and skills needed to be competitive in the workforce.
While there has been decades-long focus on higher education and college degrees, both Sisolak and Walsh said there needs to be more emphasis and investment in training for trade programs.
Sisolak added there is a need to address misconceptions, particularly from high schoolers, about how much trade jobs, like plumbers, carpenters and chefs, actually pay.
“These are careers. These aren’t minimum wage jobs,” Sisolak said. “Some will say, ‘I don’t want to be a plumber. I don’t want to make $9 an hour.’ I’m like, ‘are you kidding me? You have no idea how much plumbers are making.’”
While much of Tuesday’s discussion centered around increasing apprenticeship programs and connecting people to “skilled labor jobs” that pay more, there wasn’t any mention of increasing wages, benefits, or working conditions for those employed in the jobs Nevada has now.
Sisolak did not elaborate on specific sectors where pre-pandemic jobs would not return, and he wasn’t available for questions following the roundtable.
The investment in apprenticeship programs, Walsh said, is part of larger efforts from the Biden Administration to strengthen and transform the U.S. economy.
Additional job training and employment enhancement provisions are included in the Biden administration’s proposed American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. Both are part of Biden’s efforts to invest in both physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, workforce and housing, as well as other types of infrastructure like affordable child care, college access and paid leave.
Walsh has been traveling the country to tout the proposals and spoke at the Culinary Union Tuesday morning.
The American Jobs Plan, which was introduced in March and is going through intense negotiations, also has other notable investments, including $400 billion for home caregivers, the largest-growing job sector in the country, and $45 billion to replace lead pipes.
The final components of the bill are still to be determined as Republicans push counter-proposals that could significantly cut many of Biden’s initial proposals, as well as the means for paying the combined $3.8 trillion in spending that accompanies the plans.
During the roundtable at CSN, Walsh also took time to ask the group about items they think the Department of Labor, as well as the federal government, should consider when it comes to the needs of the workforce.
“For a significant number of women who haven’t come back into the workforce, child care is one of the issues,” said Elisa Cafferata, the director of the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
Walsh said the American Rescue Plan had a $39 billion allotment for child care, and the American Families Plan, as proposed, would include “a major investment into early child care and universal kindergarten.”
“It doesn’t matter where I am in the country — Iowa, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Nevada, my home state Massachusetts — it’s time for us to make a major investment in this area,” Walsh said in an interview. “When I have one-on-one conversations with Congress folks, they all agree. Now it’s a matter of what’s the will to get this thing through.”
When asked if there was a red line on negotiations around child care funding included in the legislation, he added “it isn’t a time to talk about red lines yet.”
“I think we’ve finally gone beyond the conversation that infrastructure is roads and bridges,” he said. “Infrastructure is child care. Infrastructure is elder care. Infrastructure is electric grids. Infrastructure is clean drinking water. I think we are having those major conversations now.”
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