“I tell everyone, tip your housekeepers,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said Tuesday as he watched trainees at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas practice the precise art of bed making.
Southern Nevada’s hotel housekeepers, overwhelmingly immigrants and women of color, can probably use the extra cash. The cost of a three-week training program at the Academy is $799. Graduates can earn as much as $26 an hour, including the value of benefits, according to a Culinary Union spokeswoman. The starting wage is $17.
The Culinary Academy trains some 2,000 prospective workers a year in a variety of disciplines, including food and beverage, digital and employability skills, and language instruction.
Most students – 85% – receive tuition assistance from a variety of “public and private funding agencies,” according to the Academy’s website. Tuition is free for Culinary Union members.
Looking for scholarships while holding down a low-wage job can be overwhelming. Workforce development programs are time intensive and can be costly in terms of transportation, child care or loss of income.
Clark County social service clients can receive housing and child care assistance, as well as free training from the Culinary Academy. On Tuesday, the Clark County Commission unanimously approved as much as $7.6 million in funding for the Academy to extend the program for the next four years.
Deputy County Manager Kevin Schiller told commissioners the partnership was in the works before COVID hit. He said the contract supports the recovery in terms of emergency housing and workforce training.
Applicants must have an annual income below $13,590 per year.
The contract provides for “case management and intensive wraparound services,” Schiller said, adding the social service component addresses self-sufficiency, life skills, and “those specific pieces that are tied into making somebody successful and not just referring them to a workforce training program.”
“We have some wraparound services but not enough,” Sisolak said Tuesday after touring the Academy.
Education, diversification and alphabet soup
Nevada’s workforce is slightly more educated than the rest of the nation, according to the U.S. Census. In 2021, 24.7% of the state’s population aged 25 and older had completed four years of college compared with 23.5% of the U.S. population.
Sisolak and other state officials have pointed to higher education as a key component of attracting new types of employers that can diversify the economy.
“We’ve got more engineering students enrolled at UNLV than ever before,” Sisolak said. “Which is an encouraging thing.”
The governor said he wants to offset the financial burden of higher education by making community college free for “more people” by 2025.
“The cost of attending a community college should not be a prohibitive factor of getting someone in the program,” he said.
But he added college isn’t for everyone.
“Everybody isn’t going to be an engineer. Everybody isn’t going to be a truck driver,” Sisolak said. “We need to make all those things available…”
The Governor’s Office for Economic Development oversees Workforce Innovations for the New Nevada (WINN) – the state’s “commitment to create training programs that will equip workers with the skills needed by our employers.”
“Since its inception, the GOED Board and leadership have approved nearly $11 million in WINN project funding – a significant state investment that is shaping new workforce training options, as a catalyst and accelerator to formal pathways of workforce development mechanisms,” reads a 2021 report.
Funding has gone into five “high-growth sectors” – advanced manufacturing (receiving $5.7 million), health care ($2.2 million), technology ($1.2 million), mining ($819,433), and logistics & operations ($624,868).
The report says from 2019 through 2020:
- 1,958 participants obtained high-skill job training through WINN
- 1,297 Nevadans gained industry-recognized credentials
- 861 Nevadans obtained new jobs following training
- The average wage of new job opportunities was $20.03, up from $16.29 in the previous biennial report
- 517 Nevadans “upskilled to advance existing careers”
“Typically there is no charge to the trainee,” says Rosa Mendez, a spokesperson for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
Job training efforts in America have been criticized for being “largely ineffective.”
“With the exception of the Registered Apprenticeship program, government job training programs appear to be largely ineffective and fail to produce sufficient benefits for workers to justify the costs,” the White House Council of Economic Advisors wrote in 2019.
Pres. Ronald Reagan’s Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) of 1982 spent just under $3 billion a year from 1984 through 1998, and revamped the training landscape by removing subsidies for local government jobs and giving more control to the private sector.
Today, the federal government spends almost $7 billion a year on job and skills training.
In 2019, before the pandemic, Nevada’s alphabet soup of job development programs provided training to 2,667 adults, 565 dislocated workers, 940 youth and 41,159 individuals through the federal Wagner-Peyser program, which offers a ‘one-stop’ approach to job finding services.
The following year, during the pandemic, the state’s programs provided training to 2,461 adults, 1,073 dislocated workers, 1,069 youth and 7,793 Wagner-Peyser candidates.
“Through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), the Office of Workforce Innovation (OWINN), and the state’s two Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDB) provided an array of quality programs and services during Program Year (PY) 2019,” says Nevada Job Connect’s 2020 annual report.
Median earnings for adult participants and dislocated workers ranged from about $5,000 a quarter to $8,500 a quarter, according to the report.
Wraparound services are spotty, with some training programs offsetting child care costs.
“Programs that provide the child care subsidy are administered by our workforce partner, Workforce Connections,” Mendez said. “There are no programs currently available that would augment income.”
Before COVID closed the doors to Job Connect in March 2020, the state’s offices reported as many as 3,500 visitors a month.
Sisolak weighs in on wages
Sisolak also said Tuesday that the days of slight, incremental increases in the minimum wage are gone. Employers, he says, are subject to market forces.
“That comes up in my GOED meetings,” he said. “When they talk about hiring people, I go, ‘I don’t know if these wages are realistic. When you’re wanting to hire people you’ve got to give more than the next company’s giving in order to attract them to your business.’”
He continued, “I’m seeing it’s $16, $18 an hour to work in a fast food restaurant. So I think businesses are learning by a law of supply and demand that they have to have better accommodations, better working conditions, wages and amenities.”
Correction: The original version of this story stated an incorrect figure for housekeeper pay.