Ensuring that Rhode Island has a workforce with the skills to fill current and future jobs is vital to our state’s economic recovery and to the economic well-being of its residents.
Rhode Island needs to make a bold investment in workforce skills training. Doubling the state’s investment by appropriating $6 million for FY 2014 would support a range of strategies to help employers fill vacant positions and help unemployed Rhode Islanders find jobs.
The first Biennial Employment and Training Plan issued by The Governor’s Workforce Board in October, documents that even with high unemployment, employers report a skills mismatch between what they need and what the Rhode Island workforce provides. Gaps exist across the spectrum: lack of work readiness for entry-level jobs, specific technical skills shortages at middle- and high-skill levels and lack of work experience at every level of the labor market. General revenue investment for FY 2012 was $5.5 million. The Job Development Fund (“JDF”), funded through a small employer tax, provided $6.9 million, exceeding the state investment. Federal funds provided the majority of workforce development funding, but these funds will shrink in FY 2014 as a result of federal budget cuts.
The Governor includes $3 million in new general revenue in his budget to support workforce development opportunities including subsidized jobs, paid internships for college students and expansion of apprenticeship programs. With additional general revenue investments, more summer jobs could be provided to our youth, more employers could provide targeted training to their workforce, more Rhode Islanders could receive occupational training leading directly to employment and some of the several thousand adults waiting to participate in basic skills training through the adult education system could move “off the list” and into classes. To provide a permanent stream of additional funds for workforce development, the Job Development Fund should be exempt from the “indirect cost” recovery requirement which results in $1.2 million of the JDF reverting to the state’s general fund.