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Hawaii to Offer Free Skills Training, Job Placement Support

The state’s $35 million initiative, Good Jobs Hawai’i, hopes to support 3,000 state residents with their career advancement in health care, technology, clean energy, skilled trades and creative industries.

Hawaii State Capitol
(TNS) — An unprecedented $35 million state initiative to provide free skills training and job-placement support for 3,000 Hawaii residents launches today, with leaders hoping to improve participants' quality of life by increasing their earning potential, while easing labor shortages in some of the state's high-demand industries.

The Good Jobs Hawai'i initiative marks the first time a free workforce development effort of this scope and amount of funding—with this much cooperation across federal, state and all four major county government agencies; scores of employers; and philanthropic organizations—has been offered to residents across the islands, said David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii, which is the lead agency.

As studies suggest about 60 percent to 70 percent of future jobs will require some type of education beyond high school, "I think this specific initiative will change the lives of families and will help our economy by filling these jobs," Lassner said as officials gave the Honolulu Star-Advertiser an exclusive first look at the plans.

The industries that the trainings will focus on are "transformational for our economy, " Lassner added.

They span four sectors that are considered growth industries important for Hawaii's future : health care, technology, clean energy /skilled trades and creative industries, which includes jobs supporting TV shows, movies and other projects made in Hawaii (see list of course examples on page B4 ).

Nearly 65 businesses so far have committed to the Good Jobs Hawai'i initiative : identifying positions that need to be filled, helping to design training courses and pledging to making hiring and promoting Hawaii workers a priority. "With this collaboration ... we're asking the employers to come to the table not just to tell us what they need, but to commit to hiring if we provide the training that they say their employees need, " Lassner said.

Prospective applicants are invited to visit to browse and apply online. Hawaii residents who have at least a high school diploma are eligible. Current high school seniors who expect to enter the workforce within six months also are eligible, said Josh Kaakua, UH community college program officer and principal investigator for the Good Jobs initiative. U.S. citizenship, or status as a permanent resident alien of the U.S. with a green card, also is required. There is no maximum age or education level, Kaakua said.

All trainings are less than a year long, and most range from four to 16 weeks, Kaakua said. Most courses are part time, and most are delivered at least partially online, to make them more accessible to people who already hold other jobs or live on the neighbor islands, he said. All seven UH community colleges are participating.

The courses are intended to go well beyond training, providing onramps to jobs, Kaakua said. That means some trainings include onboarding in available jobs toward the end of the course, while for others, staff will assist with job applications and placement.

"Fifty percent of our (high school) graduating class go right into some form of college, but the other 50 percent do not; this program is for them, " Kaakua said.

Going straight to work immediately after high school too often leaves people stuck in jobs without potential for career growth and earnings that make staying in Hawaii and raising a family possible, Kaakua added. "A lot of people frankly are working in lousy jobs, or they'll have multiple jobs. And we're trying to promote that with a little bit of workforce training and skills training, (they can ) move into just one good job that has a (career) path."

The initiative is making a special effort to recruit traditionally disadvantaged and /or underrepresented segments of the population, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, which officials hope to have make up around one-third of all participants, Kaakua said.

When asked what success for the Good Jobs Hawai'i initiative will look like, Kaakua said the goal is to have at least 75 percent of participants finish their training and at least 75 percent of those who complete training land in jobs.

Funding for the program comes from multiple federal, state, county and philanthropic resources. The largest chunk is $16.4 million over three years from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. Of about 560 applicants, Kaakua said, the Hawaii coalition was one of 32 grant awardees winning a share of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge funded by President Biden's American Rescue Plan.

Other major funding sources include $13 million from the U.S. Department of Education via Hana Career Pathways, a preexisting program now being included under the Good Jobs umbrella ; $5 million from the City and County of Honolulu ; and $1 million from national and local philanthropic organizations. State agencies are using their resources to support local internships, and businesses are contributing in-kind resources such as clinical space, mentoring and instruction, and on-the-job training.

When asked about the hefty-looking price tag per student for the short-term training under Good Jobs Hawai'i—$35 million divided by 3, 000 participants equals $11, 666—compared with the $11, 304 tuition that a full-time resident undergraduate student pays for two semesters at UH Manoa, Lassner pointed out the cost of a UH Manoa student's education actually is double what they pay; the remainder is covered by the state.

Kaakua added that the initiative is intended to operate for the long term, so while about $20 million will go toward direct student costs, much of the remainder will help build infrastructure, such as expanding online networks, and training instructors and staff.

For employers locally and nationally who have struggled to find highly qualified workers who match their needs, meanwhile, the Good Jobs initiative marks a shift in thinking as well as an opportunity, said Keala Peters, executive vice president of education and workforce development at the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

In health care, for instance, a recent study showed Hawaii had 2,200 job openings in 2019, but that has grown to 3,873 openings today, Peters said. Employers "are realizing that they can no longer just be consumers of talent. They're realizing that they actually have to co-create talent."

Medium and large companies across the U.S. increasingly have been engaging in "sector partnerships," Peters said, and in Hawaii, "that has been a joint effort with the University of Hawaii, where we've been getting CEOs together by sector in health care, technology, engineering... and it's the CEOs who are saying, 'OK, how can we increase our talent pipeline ? How can we sort of create our own destiny?'"

UH officials emphasize that while the Good Jobs effort aligns with one of the four major imperatives in its new six-year strategic plan—an imperative titled "Meet Hawaii workforce needs of today and tomorrow "—that does not mean the university is shifting emphasis away from degree programs. "We will address the full spectrum of needs, from workforce training programs such as Good Jobs Hawai'i, to the many well-paying jobs that require two-year, four-year and graduate degrees available across our 10 UH campuses," Lassner said.

Addressing the concern that the initiative could pigeonhole people into entry-level jobs, Peters said the employers involved in the Good Jobs Hawai'i initiative are required to pledge that they will commit to developing and promoting local talent. And "we're talking $25, $40, $50 an hour for some of these positions, " she said. The training is "not the end. There's a commitment to create this career pathway. So there's advancement and mobility."

Free Training for Good Jobs

The state's $35 million Good Jobs Hawai'i initiative will offer free skills training and job-placement support in four industry sectors. Applicants can browse courses and apply online at Offerings will be updated every one to two months to meet student demand and employers' needs. Applicants who are unsure which course may be the best fit can indicate so on the website, and a "navigator" will contact them to assist.

Examples of the courses:

Health—Nursing—Medical assistant, dental assistant, optometry assistant—EMT certification preparation—Pharmacy technician—Licensed massage therapist
Skilled trades—Commercial driver's license program—Electrician pre-apprenticeship—Carpenter pre-apprenticeship—Solar safety training—Automotive Service Excellence for hybrid and electric vehicles—Renewable Energy Certification—photovoltaic and battery-based design
Information technology—CompTIA Network+ (networks, switching, routing and wireless essentials)—A+ Certification (hardware and software troubleshooting)—Security + (computer and information security)—Project Management

Professional Creative industries Courses are still being designed and will be announced in coming months, but officials say they might include training for work film, TV, graphic design and media.

(c)2023 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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