AUGUSTA, Maine — Tuesday is the last day the state is taking public comments on a plan it released in mid-January that would alter the way federal workforce training dollars are allocated around the state.
The State Workforce Investment Board is seeking public comments on its Workforce Investment Act Strategic Plan. Gov. Paul LePage will review the comments, which will be included with the proposal the state plans to submit to the U.S. Department of Labor for approval.
The state is made up of four regions for the purpose of allocating funds from the federal Workforce Investment Act, or WIA. The new plan instead “breaks the four regions up into much more closely aligned economic communities” for the purpose of allocating federal workforce funds, said Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor. Rabinowitz said the plan will reduce administrative costs in an effort to spend more on job training.
It also reportedly would harness chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations to strengthen the connection between the State Workforce Investment Board and the private sector.
For details on the new plan and to submit public comment, visit http://www.maine.gov/swib/wia_plan.html.
Ryan Pelletier, director of the economic and workforce development division at the Northern Maine Development Commission, called the plan an “ill-crafted proposal.”
If the LePage administration wants to reduce administrative costs, how would having eight regions and therefore eight regional boards be more efficient than the existing four, Pelletier questioned.
He also said breaking up the existing system will harm synergies that exist within the four regions the state wants to alter. For example, Aroostook and Washington counties operate within the same region for workforce development issues, as well as for economic and community development issues.
“If you look at it purely through a WIA lens you could say, ‘Oh sure, we could do this,’” he said. “But that’s not how the system operates. We’re working with our counterparts in both regions on a variety of issues and programs, and workforce is just one of those programs. We’d like to keep it consistent with everything else we’re doing.”
The LePage administration submitted a similar plan last fall, which included a waiver to eliminate the existing four regions. That plan was rejected. The new plan is essentially the same plan, minus the waiver.
“[The new plan] does everything we want, but it doesn’t eliminate as much administrative costs,” Rabinowitz said.