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State to spend $50 million to help people qualify for better jobs

Charles MegginsonGovernment, Headlines

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Among the things that new workforce development money will be spent on is helping women, minorities and the disadvantaged find jobs in construction and other fields. Photo by Anamul Rezwan/Pexels

Delaware will put $50 million of COVID-19 relief money into workforce development, but exactly how that money will be spent isn’t clear.

The plan was announced by Gov. John Carney Tuesday morning without an explanation of where the money would go. A press release from his office two hours later listed      some projects that will receive money but gave little detail on specifically how it will be used.

To pay for the initiatives, Carney plans to tap the more than $1 billion in COVID-relief funds Delaware received from the American Rescue Plan Act, a federal stimulus package aimed at hastening the economic recovery from the pandemic.

“We’re focused on investments that will build on the strengths of Delaware’s world-class workforce and support Delaware families and businesses who were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Carney said at the press conference. “These workforce development programs will help Delawareans develop the skills they need to succeed in a 21st-century economy.”

The press release listed the allocation of $41.3 million of the $50 million total, but not how the money would be spent once allocated or if there would be any mechanism to track the efficacy of the investments. 

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, said she believes Delaware needs to invest in workforce development but that today’s announcement left her with more questions than answers. 

“It’s needed,” Briggs King said. “All industries are struggling to find workers and to develop the talent and recruit and retain their workforce. But looking at the timeline, how quickly do they plan on doing this? What do they plan on doing and what is the vehicle to do it? We didn’t get a lot of detail.”

Included is a $15.8 million public-private expansion of Delaware’s Pathways program, which allows high school students to gain real-world work experience while in school. 

The expansion will increase access to the Pathways program to 32,000 students — or 80% of the state’s high school enrollment. Currently, about 20,000 students are served by the program, which helps them get internships, among other things.

An additional $8.3 million will be allocated to the Pathways 2.0 program, which will expand the Pathways program into Delaware middle schools, reaching more than 6,000 students.

The press release said $1 million will go to training and pathways to employment for Delawareans seeking employment in the hospitality industry, but offered no details about how, when or to what purpose.

The press release listed $1.2 million for DelDOT’s Workforce Development Academy. Carney said the funding specifically targets women, minorities and disadvantaged Delawareans seeking employment in the highway construction industry. 

Also included in the investment is $1.5 million for the Department of Labor’s workforce programs. 

The training programs are designed to assist Delaware workers and their families who have been impacted most by the COVID-19 crisis with a specific focus on health care, logistics and transportation.

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