Gov. Sandoval may add cabinet member to oversee work-force development, Chamber official says

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Gov. Brian Sandoval may add a cabinet position to oversee work-force development as part of his plans for the 2017 Nevada Legislature, said Tray Abney, the director of government relations at The Chamber of Reno, Sparks and Washoe County.

Sandoval is expected to lay out his plan for the 2017 session during his State of the State speech on Jan. 17.

With high-tech giants like Tesla, Switch (data collection) and Panasonic becoming big parts of the state’s economy, a cabinet-level work-force development boss could oversee the education and training needed for Nevada’s future employment opportunities, Abney said.

“It was 2011 when they reorganized economic development in this state,” Abney said of the Sandoval administration. “That is when Steve Hill came on board and they created a cabinet-level position (for economic development), got rid of the silos and made everything work together. So it sounds like what they want to do with work-force development agencies and efforts in this state — to make a cabinet level position to do that. So I think you are going to see that.”

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That issue — work-force development — and the education needed to prosper in Nevada’s tech-savvy future could be at the center of the governor’s plans, Abney added.

“We re being told it is definitely going to be a work force development — slash — higher ed (education) session, whatever that means,” Abney said during a recent broadcast of Nevada Newsmakers.

“Obviously with some of his (Sandoval’s) BDRs (bill draft requests), we are already seeing that — making sure you can transfer (professional) licenses across state lines, and making sure the articulation between high schools, community colleges and the university system is a more  seamless process. We have heard that it is sometimes difficult to transfer even between TMCC and the University of Nevada, for example.”

The 2017 Legislature will be Sandoval’s final session before he is term-limited as governor in 2018. His final session carries an extra importance, Abney said.

“It’s his last session, so I think he wants to go out with a legacy,” Abney said of Sandoval. “And certainly, if he had ended after 2015, he would have already had that legacy, I would argue.”

Sandoval’s push for work-force development could lead to the clash over funding between the state’s community colleges and major universities, Abney said.

“Most of Tesla’s employees, Switch’s, Panasonic’s and everybody else we are talking about, most of those are blue collar, community college-type workers,” Abney said. “And so, are the community colleges funded properly in relation to the universities? Their (community college) budgets were cut a lot through the recession. So you are going to see that kind of battle, I think, brewing either under the surface or on top of it.”

Nevada’s community colleges absorbed 30 percent cuts during the 2011-13 biennium budget. Western Nevada College and Great Basin College also took a combined $30 million in cuts in the 2013 Legislature. WNC President Carol Lucey resigned in 2013 over the cuts, writing in a resignation memo that WNC’s state funding had been cut 40 percent in the “last few years.”

“Most of our workforce will go through the community college system and not  the university system,” Abney said. “So what is the right balance there? We certainly don’t need a lot more political science majors running around. You need engineers and folks who can work on factory lines.”

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