By Nicole Raz Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nick Freed, 21, begins his first day of work at Panasonic on Monday.
He’s a guinea pig for one of the state’s first accelerated education programs tailored for a specific company. The program ends with a credential that can be used to go toward a traditional degree.
“I was signing up for classes just for an associate’s degree, and then I saw there was an ad for this Panasonic program,” Freed said. “It was a lot cheaper than going for the first semester of classes for an associate’s degree.”
For about four weeks of classes for about $450 at the Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Freed learned the skills necessary to become a competitive job candidate for an entry-level material handler position at Panasonic, which is manufacturing batteries for the Tesla Gigafactory. And, because the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Truckee Meadows recently made money available to qualified applicants, he will be fully reimbursed for completing the program.
ADDRESSING SKILL GAP
The Panasonic and Hamilton training program, called the Panasonic Preferred Pathway program, launched in January, and it is the first of many training programs like it to come — to Southern Nevada as well — to help the state address its workforce challenge.
“Panasonic Corporation came to us the week before December and said they need to fill about 2,400 slots by December 2017. When I look at how many people we have in the program today, which is about 130 to 150, coupled with what Western Nevada College has in their pipeline, we’re about 10 percent of what they need right now in the program,” said Kyle Dalpe, interim dean of the technical sciences division at Truckee Meadows. “But that doesn’t include people who have already graduated the pipeline or people who are in the pipeline.”
Panasonic isn’t alone. Nevada is about 197,000 jobs short of the national average in five of the state’s emerging target industries when combined: aerospace and defense, information technology, manufacturing, natural resources (which includes water technology), and health and medical services.
“Our diversification efforts have really tried to point us toward these emerging sectors that pay above average wage and grow our economy,” said Bob Potts, research director at the economic development office. “If you look at the midst of industries that we’ve historically had and look at we currently have, we have gained a lot of ground.”
Potts said though Nevada is about 197,000 jobs short in those areas now, the state is 9,000 jobs closer to where it was in those areas compared with the national average in 2010.
BUSINESSESS ‘MUST STEP UP’
A team of three in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development say they are seeking more companies to partner with the state to develop a training program.
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