Government Direction of the Labor Force

Update: This bill was amended and much was taken out from the original legislation. The Council is now essentially a glorified study committee, which will “make recommendations to the General Assembly concerning matters related to workforce development.”

H.4145 would create a “Workforce Development Council” comprised of the heads or former heads of many powerful state agencies (Dept. of Education, Dept. of Commerce, State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education, Dept. of Employment and Workforce, and the Commission on Higher Education). In addition to gathering a plethora of data and regularly evaluating existing state workforce training, the Council would be charged with creating a state comprehensive plan for workforce training and education, and developing a plan to ensure there is an adequate number of healthcare workers. Local workforce development councils and elected officials would also be instructed to develop a local workforce development plan and submit it to the Council for review and the Governor for approval. Finally, the bill would create the “Pathways to First Careers” and “Pathways to New Opportunities” programs tasked with subsidizing career training programs (particularly programs that train individual for careers in industries with critical workforce shortages) for students, and adults respectively.

All of the agencies whose heads or ex-heads make up the Workforce Development Council would be tasked with helping to implement some part of the state comprehensive plan for workforce training and education developed by the Council. This bill would no doubt lead to increased spending at all of these agencies, and creates new tax credits for funding apprenticeships and scholarships for workforce training. This proposed legislation seems to fall just shy of complete central planning of our state’s labor force. Heads of government agencies cannot accurately predict the natural growth of various industries in our state and their future demand for workers. Attempts to push the state’s future labor force into favored industries will most likely result in a surplus of workers in some industries (meaning unemployment and reduced wages), and a shortage in others, both outcomes will combine to hinder overall economic growth.

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