Workforce Development Governance (H.707) - Feb 28, 2024

Legislative Council presented a new draft of H.707 on Wednesday for the House Commerce Committee to review. The new draft creates the office of the Executive Director of the Workforce Expansion, which consists of two employees - an Executive Director (under the Governor) and a support staff member. New language was also added to ensure that the Workforce Governance Task Force will study data management models and names the Executive Director as chair of the working group.

NOTE: Later on in testimony it was suggested that the language creating the Office of Workforce Expansion that the reference to two employees be changed to one exempt employee and one classified employee.

Michael Harrington (Commissioner, Department of Labor) and Cameron Wood (Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, Department of Labor)  testified together. In general, neither had any major concerns about the bill but provided the Committee with some preferred language changes, mostly for clarification. 

Adam Grinold (Executive Director, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation) testified next, noting that he was a participant in many of the related organizations but not speaking on behalf of those organizations. He wanted to ensure that the Committee “recognized the opportunity that was in front of them” and stated he hoped that we can “capture as much of the opportunity as possible.”

He said that the system as it now stands does not necessarily bring access to the data that will help us look to the future. The state needs to know how to utilize the data. We should take all the money that is spent on workforce development, understand the demand for increasing individual skills, and focus the money where it is truly needed.

Grinold talked a lot about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which provided money and guidance to states for workforce development.  Whatever the state does with the WIOA funding, they have to be in total compliance with the requirements of the Act. He noted that we don’t have a system that monitors data adequately. He claimed that we trained more people in certain skills than there are jobs in that field, so then they have nowhere (in state) to go with their skills. We need to understand the demand and train to the demand. 

Ellen Kahler (Executive Director, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund) spoke next. She is involved with agricultural, renewable energy, waste management and the green economy among other areas. She also noted she was representing herself however in her testimony, but is trying to represent what she hears from employers and challenges they are facing in trying to find workers with the requisite skills.

Many employers do not know how to access the system. WIOA funds are for workforce training, but she believes there is a much larger picture which needs to be looked at. She noted that the Committee needed to be careful about the language used when talking about the office vs. the Executive Director. She recommended that we stay away from ‘minimum’ skills to give the state more leverage in hiring the ‘perfect’ candidate.    

Chairman Marcotte commented that he thought the Committee members recognized that fact and had spent many hours trying to develop language to do just that. However, they also need to make sure they are in compliance with WIOA. For example, they cannot remove the Department of Labor (VDOL) from being in charge of workforce development as they would be out of compliance with WIOA.

He asked those present if they could work together and come back with a proposal to include identifying those things which the Committee needs to take a deeper look at. There’s a lot in the bill, he commented, and “we need to get it right.”

A member of the Committee noted that they want someone who is actually an expert in workforce, and they should add some language to that effect. The Governor is free to employ anyone he feels can do the job regardless of qualifications. They felt they needed to find a way to recommend qualifications without setting those requirements.

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