Lawmaker Jane English Helps Spur Workforce Training Reform

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Apr. 7, 2014 12:00 am  

On these issues English and state officials are largely in agreement: Workforce training reform means improved coordination of programs, elimination of duplicative programs, meaningful industry input into training efforts, measurement of program effectiveness and more money for programs proven to work, $15 million in fiscal 2015 to be administered by the AEDC.

All Aboard

“It was fairly refreshing to see somebody come in and say, ‘I think I can see a way clear to doing what you want, but I want something in return,’ and the something in return was a true statewide need,” said Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Efficiency is what workforce training reform is about, he said. And the need for efficiency is demonstrated by the fact that apparently nowhere in state government is there one agency or one official who can list all the state-sponsored workforce training programs. “That has long been part of the problem,” Tennille acknowledged.

“Now, the governor instituted the workforce cabinet at the beginning of his tenure, and there has been a whole lot more collaboration and communication than there ever was in the past,” he said.

Nevertheless, difficulties remain. Funds, for example, are “siloed” just as programs are.

A 0.5 percent tax levied by the state on corporate income of more than $100,000 currently brings in about $24 million annually. Originally envisioned for workforce training, over time that money became part of the funding formula for two-year colleges, Tennille said.

The governor’s legislative package will include efforts to ensure that money goes toward workforce development.

By refocusing this money on job training and through other reallocations of funds, “we think we’re going to be able to create a pot that should amount to something between $24 million and $32 million a year,” Tennille said.

The key, he said, will be to give the two-year colleges the ability to be more “nimble,” to be able to respond to business and industry demands for certain workplace skills.

As for English, she said that “ever since I’ve lived here, we’ve talked more about how do you get people onto some of these social programs than about how do you get them off.” That, she thinks, is the wrong emphasis.

“I think we have good people here in the state who would like very much to have a good job, would like to be able to have the skills to be able to go and do a good job. Buy a house, buy a car,” English said. “I still believe in the American dream.”



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