Grooming a sustainable workforce: Reno-area organizations seek to train Nevadans for the future
March 27, 2019
RENO, Nev. — Phil Holland knows a thing or two about the data cabling business.
Holland founded Communications Installation Services in Reno in 1989 and ran the company for decades before selling it in 2013.
Holland, who now works as a business development executive with the Reno Technology Academy, is spearheading development of a new communications cabling and fiber optics lab at the RTA that will help meet the region's growing demand for skilled workers who understand how to install copper and fiber optic communications cabling.
The new lab should be ready for students this summer and is yet another example of a regional workforce training organization adapting to meet the needs of area businesses.
"There's demand for skilled labor that understands the technology, the specifications, and how to work in construction," Holland says. "We are taking all those aspects into a lab where students will install copper and fiber inside of buildings and racks so that they can step into the workplace immediately.
"All companies needs cable or fiber," he adds. "They all need to tie their computers together, and this lab will help fill the gap of not having enough tradespeople in that industry."
Recommended Stories For You
The new cabling lab is a collaborative effort between local contractors and cabling suppliers to help better meet the needs of regional businesses, says Steve Andreano, director of technology programs for the RTA.
CommScope, a large manufacturer of communications cabling products, and Chatsworth Products, an industry leader in the server racking industry, provided all the hardware for the lab.
Executives from the Reno Technology Academy met with dealer reps of both companies through the cooperation of Anixter, a global supplier of electrical/electronic and utility power solutions.
'Skills training is essential'
The Reno Technology Academy, a relative newcomer to regional workforce training efforts, also offers a suite of key industry IT certifications designed to help prospective employees demonstrate basic proficiencies in a range of key areas, such as cybersecurity, networking and computer programming.
"There is always demand in the technology sector for people who have basic computer certifications, such as A+, Network + and Security+ along with a basic understanding of how to work on and with computers, as well as how networks operate and how to secure a business environment," Andreano says. "These are entry-level requirements no matter what kind of degree some has. There is a big demand for these skills, and they are among core programs we offer."
Reno Technology Academy is a career certificate training school that's classified as an open-entry, open-exit institutions, meaning they accept any student interested in completing a certification program.
The programs have been popular since the academy opened in 2017 because these are the certifications employers require, Andreano says. RTA is a non-faith-based career academy that operates as a standalone educational center inside Multnomah University, which has been operating in Northern Nevada for more than a decade.
"Skills training is essential," Andreano says. "What's happening is that people who graduate with two- or four-year degrees in a specific subject often lack detailed expertise in one of these areas. In order to secure a position they have to add to their existing skills, and they can do that by taking certification classes here."
The existing cybersecurity certificate program and others offered at RTA are a direct result of collaborating with local business to meet their needs. Regional business leaders provided insight into the RTA's certification curriculum to ensure that candidates coming out of the academy would be able to meet basic employment needs.
The RTA routinely has meeting with businesses moving into Nevada to discuss what these companies feel are the primary requirements for potential employees. The regional workforce in the past wasn't prepared for the demands of an IT workforce, Andreano says.
"Northern Nevada has typically been focused around the hospitality, hotel and gaming industries, and it has only been in last three or four years that we have seen a large number of technology companies moving into the valley," he says. "Our workforce is largely unprepared for that large influx — we just haven't had those types of jobs here in the past.
"Employers know it is an attractive location in terms of housing, taxes and overall cost of living," he adds. "They are willing to settle here, but they won't if they don't see that the workforce expanding. The need is real, and the more we satisfy this demand the more industries will come here."
'Getting our workforce trained faster'
Creating a centralized message about the regional workforce and training options has become a primary focus of local workforce development, training and job-placement organizations.
The new Career and Technical Education Messaging Coalition of Northern Nevada is a consortium of regional entities working together to match potential employees with the many jobs and job training opportunities in northern Nevada, which can be found at newnevadajobs.com.
The consortium includes Truckee Meadows Community College, WINN, American Job Center of Nevada, WINN, Academy for Career Education, NVIE and more.
Edward Estipona, president and chief executive officer of Estipona Group, says that although the site was just recently launched, it has already provided positive analytical data. The site has received more than 3,000 unique website visits as of mid-March, with visitors staying an average of two minutes per page. Visitors to the "jobseekers" section of the site have stayed an average of six-and-a-half minutes.
One of the primary goals of the Career and Technical Education Messaging Coalition of Northern Nevada is to point employees in the right place so they don't have to wade through cluttered or bulky web sites in search of relevant information, Estipona says.
"This coalition has been working together regionally to send potential employees to a central portal that will allow them to access services regionally for training," he says. "By working together we are able to go out to the community with a singular message and action point. We believe this is beneficial to the community as our partners aren't trying to compete with each other to get the attention of these potential employees.
"By forming this coalition, we are able to be more efficient with our resources, and at the same time we are able to direct the potential employees to the service organization that will help them find their path to training," he adds. "That ultimately will help in getting our workforce trained faster and allow them to fill these high-demand positions."
Rob Sabo a Reno-based freelance writer and former reporter for the Northern Nevada Business View.