Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/14/2002 01:37 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          SB 252-EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING PROGRAM/BOARD                                                                      
CHAIRMAN BEN STEVENS called the Senate  Labor & Commerce Committee                                                            
meeting to  order at 1:37 p.m. and  announced SB 252 to  be up for                                                              
MS. REBECCA  GAMEZ, Deputy Commissioner,  Department of  Labor and                                                              
Workforce Development,  said she  would give  an overview  of STEP                                                              
and  changes  to  the Alaska  Human  Resource  Investment  Council                                                              
(AHIRC) that are in SB 252 after Mr. Sanders' testimony.                                                                        
MR.  JIM  SANDERS,  Executive  Director,  Alaska  Human  Resources                                                              
Investment Council,  said there are  five issues in this  bill and                                                              
the first  one is  the name  change. Currently,  it is called  the                                                              
Alaska  Human Resource  Investment  Council  and this  legislation                                                              
proposes  to change  it to  the State  Workforce Investment  Board                                                              
(WIB).  This  would   bring  them  in  line  with   the  Workforce                                                              
Investment Act  and more clearly  aligns them with the  two Alaska                                                              
Workforce Investment  Boards - the  Alaska Mat-Su  and the Balance                                                              
of State WIB.                                                                                                                   
Secondly,  the AHRIC  doesn't clearly  convey the  purpose of  the                                                              
Council.  Their  mission  says  that they  are  a  private  public                                                              
leadership board  that sets policy  framework for  the development                                                              
of  Alaska's workforce.  The proposed  title is  shorter and  more                                                              
succinctly identifies the organization's purpose.                                                                               
There are a number of housekeeping  issues. Throughout the text of                                                              
the bill they  would change the reference of "Council"  to "Board"                                                              
and change references to the "Private  Industry Council" to "Local                                                              
Workforce Investment Board".                                                                                                    
The third issue is adding the Commissioner  of Administration as a                                                              
non-voting  member of the  Board. He  said that  Juneau is  one of                                                              
Alaska's major  employers and  the Commissioner of  Administration                                                              
has a  comprehensive knowledge  of current  and future  employment                                                              
needs for  the state  employment  system. He would  be a  valuable                                                              
asset to  the Board in its  deliberation and discussion  of policy                                                              
issues.  In  addition,  the  Commissioner  would  benefit  from  a                                                              
greater exposure to  the full spectrum of employment  and training                                                              
issues that  confront the  state and  are frequently discussed  by                                                              
The  fourth  issue is  one  of flexibility.  Currently,  AHRIC  is                                                              
restricted  to meeting  three times  a year and  this would  allow                                                              
them one more meeting per year [but  not make it mandatory] giving                                                              
them the flexibility to address unexpected issues.                                                                              
The fifth issue  is in Section 9. The AHRIC  advises the governor,                                                              
state  and  local  agencies  and   the  University  of  Alaska  on                                                              
workforce  issues   and  they   propose  adding  "other   training                                                              
entities". This  reflects what they  currently do with  the Alaska                                                              
Vocational  Technical  Training  Center, Charter  College  or  the                                                              
Southwest Vocational Training Center.                                                                                           
The other  change in  section 9  is that  the Board shall  develop                                                              
standards  that encourage  agencies to contract  for programs  and                                                              
says, "meets  local demands and  maximizes the use  of resources."                                                              
This is  something that  they already do.  They want  training and                                                              
employment to reflect  regional needs and funds that  are used are                                                              
used most effectively.                                                                                                          
MS.  GAMEZ  said  since  1989,  STEP   has  trained  thousands  of                                                              
Alaskans. This is  good because when people are  working, they are                                                              
not drawing unemployment insurance  benefits and it keeps wages in                                                              
the   state.  The   collaboration  with   employers,  unions   and                                                              
industries adds  value to the  economic development,  training and                                                              
apprentice  programs  throughout the  state.  She  used the  Hyder                                                              
Waterworks  Project as  an example  of how STEP  works in  Alaskan                                                              
communities  and it  has an  adult working-age  population of  82.                                                              
Adult as defined by the U.S. census  is 16 and above. So the Hyder                                                              
Waterworks Project employs about half of its population.                                                                        
The U.S. Department  of Commerce, through an  Economic Development                                                              
and Administration  Grant (EDA),  paid 60 percent  of the  cost of                                                              
the facility; forty  percent was raised locally.  They applied for                                                              
a STEP  grant for  training and  were award  a $32,000 grant.  The                                                              
University of  Alaska Ketchikan provided  onsite training  for the                                                              
workers. She  said that  the federal funding  programs are  not as                                                              
flexible  as this  program  is. Currently,  the  Hyder project  is                                                              
capable of producing 140,000 bottles  daily, although they produce                                                              
only 40,000  bottles. They are  negotiating a contract  with Sam's                                                              
Club right now.  If that happens, they will want  to train another                                                              
shift of workers.                                                                                                               
MS. GAMEZ said  the STEP delivery strategy is  two-fold delivering                                                              
service  through  competitive  grants   into  business  needs  and                                                              
through  individual  services  largely delivered  through  the  22                                                              
Alaska  job centers.  A good  example of  the individual  training                                                              
model is  Kathleen Basinger  of Fairbanks.  She has supported  two                                                              
kids  by herself  on a  low paying  job.  She knew  she needed  to                                                              
improve her  skill level. After she  graduated, she took  her kids                                                              
to Disneyland showing them that hard  work pays off and that self-                                                              
sufficiency and success is a good thing.                                                                                        
Another example is Mr. Glen Shortsmith  from Sterling. He had been                                                              
on and off unemployment insurance.  He needed and wanted full-time                                                              
work. Through the  Kenai Peninsula job center, he  was able to get                                                              
an  individual  grant for  $550,  which  allowed  him to  get  his                                                              
commercial driver's  license. He is now a full-time  driver and he                                                              
feels secure with the job that he has.                                                                                          
The  competitive grant  process  is delivered  through  non-profit                                                              
businesses,  for-profit  businesses, apprenticeship  programs  and                                                              
education  institutions, wherever  the need  is identified.  Right                                                              
now 300  Alaskans out of  the 1,100 in  training are  training for                                                              
high  paying union  jobs thanks  to  the STEP  program. They  also                                                              
deliver  services through  competitive grants  to large and  small                                                              
businesses for local workforces at communities around the state.                                                                
Bulk fuel  tanks are  now being  replaced in  Alaska. These  tanks                                                              
used  to be  imported from  outside  businesses and  now they  are                                                              
being manufactured  in  Nome. These  are a couple  of examples  of                                                              
success stories  of STEP in Alaska.  She showed them a  map of the                                                              
communities that are impacted by STEP training.                                                                                 
She said  that STEP has been  a pilot program since  its inception                                                              
in 1989 and this temporary nature  has been an on-going challenge.                                                              
It needs to be predictable and stable for future generations.                                                                   
SENATOR  AUSTERMAN asked  if there  was  a report  that lists  the                                                              
total number of people who are served through the program.                                                                      
MS. GAMEZ  said they had the  data compiled and pending  the audit                                                              
they  were  planning  on  getting  this  information  out  to  the                                                              
committee members.  She offered  to get  that information  to them                                                              
CHAIRMAN STEVENS  asked her to  provide them the  information. She                                                              
said absolutely.                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TORGERSON asked  if she eliminated  the sunset  entirely.                                                              
She replied  that there  was no automatic  review of  the program,                                                              
but it  would be  done through  the annual  audits the  department                                                              
goes through or any special audits that may be raised.                                                                          
SENATOR AUSTERMAN  asked if the  Local Workforce  Investment Board                                                              
was separate from the main board.                                                                                               
MS. GAMEZ  replied that  the way the  Workforce Investment  Act is                                                              
set  up  there  is  a  state  board,  the  Alaska  Human  Resource                                                              
Investment Council; there are two  local board, the Anchorage Mat-                                                              
Su area and  the other is the  Balance of State area.  In addition                                                              
to those boards, there are local  advisory councils in many of the                                                              
communities throughout  the states for  the job centers.  She said                                                              
the  language replacing  the  Private  Industry  Council with  the                                                              
Local Workforce Investment Board  mirrors the Workforce Investment                                                              
Act. Private industry councils don't technically exist any more.                                                                
SB 252 was held for further work.                                                                                               

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