$2.5 million sought to aid companies with training | nnbusinessview.com

$2.5 million sought to aid companies with training

John Seelmeyer

Business and education leaders from Washoe County hope to convince Gov. Kenny Guinn to propose $2.5 million in state funding to help train workers.

If the governor and the Legislature agree, the money would provide grants to companies or groups of companies to help them pay for training provided by colleges or universities.

Backers of the program envision that $1 in state money would match every $1 invested by companies in the training program, said Dee Schafer-Kruper, the chairman of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

When Schafer-Kruper took office at the start of this year, she brought together education officials and business leaders to begin searching for long-term answers to companies’ staffing woes.

The matching-grants program, she said, is the brainchild of Philip Ringle, the president of Truckee Meadows Community College.

Another member of the group, former Guinn aide Lisa Foster, helped mold the program into a politically acceptable form.

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The training program, Schafer-Kruper said, would have the obvious benefit of helping companies create the skilled workforce that they need.

At the same time, she said, existence of the program would make a statement to employers who are scouting northern Nevada for plant and office sites.

“This shows the companies coming into the market that this is something we have thought about,” Schafer-Kruper said.

While details of the program haven’t been hammered out, she said it’s possible the grants program might be overseen by Nevadaworks, the agency responsible for workforce development in northern Nevada.

The team of business and education leaders also is working on ways to make better connections between business leaders and high school students getting students interested in career decisions and helping them see how school is useful in the workforce.

Career fairs at schools such as Hug and Sparks high schools are a starting point, Schafer-Kruper said, but the workforce team also sees a need for longer-term relationships between students and employers.

“How do we make it so that kids don’t get just the flavor of a career, but the passion?” she asked.

While the chamber efforts to bring business and educational leaders to the table started with Schafer-Kruper’s one-year term as chamber chairman, they won’t end when she leaves office. The chamber’s board has vowed to continue the work.

“This is an ongoing, long-term effort,” she said. “We’re going to have to be committed to it.”

At the same time, she said, the chamber’s board will need to focus on ways to help the group’s members tap into the new workforce tools such as the proposed grants program that are available to them.