June 21, 2018
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Gov. LePage rolls out more changes to work force training program

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has outlined a plan to ensure that most of the money the state spends every year on job training goes to actual job training and that the training better meets work force demands.

The governor recently created a new State Workforce Investment Board that effectively replaces four local boards that were responsible for job training efforts.

Now that those training funds are centralized, LePage said, it’s easier to track how they are being used, but he said that’s only part of the picture.

“We need to bring job creators into the conversation,” he said in a statement. “Through industry partnership, they will have a say in identifying skill gaps in the work force, prioritizing training initiatives and developing defined career ladders where workers can build on prior skills and new learning to advance in their jobs.”

The governor’s plan also designates eight work force areas — instead of four — that are aligned closer with Maine’s regional chamber of commerce areas. The proposal further calls for additional performance-based standards to evaluate performance of work force programs and ensure that they are effective.

“My plan puts more funding directly into training that helps workers get better jobs and careers,” the governor said.

Fred Webber, who was picked to chair the State Workforce Investment Board, said the proposal comes at a critical time for Maine workers and employers.

“There are thousands of jobs going unfilled in Maine because of a skills mismatch in our work force,” he said. “Gov. LePage’s plan targets our training resources so that Maine people get the skills they need to be successful in the job market and Maine businesses have a talented work force that can help them be competitive in a global economy.”

LePage has targeted work force training since last October, when he was presented statistics that suggested only a small portion of federal funds sent to Maine for job training were used for that purpose. The majority of funds were tied up in administrative costs.

Maine gets money every year as part of the U.S. Workforce Investment Act and, until now, that money was distributed to four work force investment boards. Other money for job training comes from a variety of state and federal programs.

In 2010, the four work force investment boards collectively received about $5.6 million and spent only $840,000 (about 15 percent) on training and support services, according to information provided by the governor’s office. In 2009, the state received $5.3 million and spent $1.2 million (about 23 percent) on job training.

The governor also was concerned about the program’s low success rate. Information provided by the governor’s office showed that of the 2,497 program participants in 2010, only 1,102, or 44 percent, were placed in jobs. In 2009, only about 48 percent of participants were placed in jobs.

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