Jan. 30 – An unprecedented $35 million government initiative to provide free skills training and job placement assistance to 3,000 Hawaii residents begins today, with leaders hoping to improve participants’ quality of life by increasing their earning potential while alleviating labor shortages in some of the state’s high-demand industries.
Today begins an unprecedented $35 million government initiative to provide free training and job placement assistance to 3,000 Hawaiians. Executives hope to improve participants’ quality of life by increasing their earning potential while alleviating labor shortages in some states’ high-demand industries.
The Good Jobs Hawaii initiative marks the first time a no-cost human resources development effort has been funded on this scale and at this rate—with so much collaboration between federal, state, and all four of the county’s major government agencies; dozens of employers; and philanthropic organizations — was offered to residents on the islands, said David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii, the lead agency.
As studies show, about 60% to 70% of future jobs will require some sort of education beyond high school. “I think this specific initiative will transform the lives of families and help our economy by filling these jobs,” Lassner said, as officials gave Honolulu Star Advertisers an exclusive first look at the plans.
The industries that the trainings focus on are “transformative for our economy,” Lassner added.
They cover four sectors identified as key growth industries for Hawaii’s future: Healthcare, Technology, Clean Energy/Crafts, and Creative Industries, including jobs that support TV shows, films, and other Hawaii-produced projects (see Course Sample List on page B4).
Nearly 65 companies have so far signed up to the Good Jobs Hawaii initiative: identifying vacancies, assisting in the design of training courses, and committing to making hiring and promotion of workers in Hawaii a priority. “With this collaboration…we are asking employers not only to come to the table to tell us what they need, but also to commit to hiring if we provide the training they think their employees need” said Lassner.
Potential applicants are invited to visit to browse online and apply. Hawaii residents with at least a high school diploma are eligible. Current high school seniors, who are expected to enter the job market within six months, are also eligible, said Josh Kaakua, UH Community College program officer and principal investigator for the Good Jobs initiative. US citizenship or US permanent resident status with a green card is also required. There is no maximum age or level of education, Kaakua said.
All training courses last less than a year and most range from four to 16 weeks, Kaakua said. Most courses are part-time, and most are offered at least partially online to make them more accessible to people who already have other jobs or live on neighboring islands, he said. All seven UH community colleges are involved.
The courses are designed to go well beyond training and help ease entry into the job market, Kaakua said. This means that towards the end of the course, some training will include familiarization with available jobs, while others will have the staff assist with applications and job placements.
“Fifty percent of our high school seniors go straight to some type of college, but the other 50 percent don’t; this program is for them,” Kaakua said.
Going straight to work immediately after high school too often leaves people stuck in jobs with no potential for career growth and income that allows them to stay in Hawaii and raise families, Kaakua added. “Frankly, a lot of people work lousy jobs, or they have multiple jobs. And we’re trying to encourage that with a little bit of workforce education and skills training, (they can) move into just a good job has a (career) path.”
The initiative makes a special effort to recruit traditionally disadvantaged and/or underrepresented demographics, including native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who officials hope make up about a third of all participants, Kaakua said.
When asked about the success of the Good Jobs Hawaii initiative, Kaakua said the goal is for at least 75% of participants to complete their education and at least 75% of those who complete the education to find employment.
Funding for the program comes from multiple federal, state, county, and philanthropic resources. The biggest chunk is $16.4 million over three years from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. Out of about 560 applicants, Kaakua said, the Hawaii Coalition was one of 32 grantees to win 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 US Department of Education through Hana Career Pathways, an existing program now included under the Good Jobs umbrella; $5 million from the City and County of Honolulu; and $1 million from national and local philanthropic organizations. Government agencies use their resources to support local internships, and companies provide in-kind contributions such as clinical premises, mentoring and instruction, and on-the-job training.
When asked about the hefty price per student for short-term education at Good Jobs Hawai’i — $35 million divided by 3,000 participants equals $11,666 — compared to the $11,304 paid by a full-time resident as a student pays two semesters at UH Manoa, Lassner pointed out that the cost of educating a UH Manoa student is actually double what he pays; the rest is borne by the state.
Kaakua added that the initiative is intended to be long-term, so about $20 million will be used for direct student costs, but much of the rest will go toward building infrastructure, e.g. B. to expand online networks and to train trainers and employees.
Meanwhile, the Good Jobs initiative represents a shift in thinking and an opportunity for local and national employers who are struggling to find highly skilled workers who meet their needs, said Keala Peters, executive vice president of education and human resources at the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.
In healthcare, for example, a recent study showed that Hawaii had 2,200 job openings in 2019, but today it’s 3,873 job openings, Peters said. Employers “realize that they can no longer just consume talent. They realize that they must actually help shape talent.”
Medium and large companies in the US are increasingly engaging in “sector partnerships,” Peters said, and in Hawaii “that was a collaborative effort with the University of Hawaii, where we brought together CEOs by sector in healthcare, technology, engineering … and it is.” the CEOs who say, ‘Okay, how can we expand our talent pipeline? How can we shape our own destiny?’”
UH officials emphasize that while the effort to get good jobs aligns with one of the four key imperatives in its new six-year strategic plan — an imperative titled “Meet Hawaii’s workforce needs today and tomorrow,” — that doesn’t mean the university is meeting the Focus shifted from courses. “We will address the full spectrum of needs, from workforce training programs like Good Jobs Hawaii to the many well-paying jobs that require two-year, four-year and college degrees that are available at our 10 UH campuses,” Lassner said.
Addressing concerns that the initiative could put people into entry-level jobs, Peters said employers involved in the Good Jobs Hawaii initiative must commit to developing and nurturing local talent. And “we’re talking $25, $40, $50 an hour for some of these positions,” she said. Education is “not the end. There’s an obligation to create that career path. So there’s advancement and mobility.”
FREE TRAINING FOR GOOD JOBS The state’s $35 million Good Jobs Hawaii initiative will provide free training and job placement assistance in four industries. Applicants can browse courses and apply online at Offers are updated every month or two to meet student demand and employer needs. Applicants who are unsure which course is most suitable can indicate so on the website and a “navigator” will contact them to help them.
Examples of the courses:
Health – Nursing – Physician Assistant, Dental Assistant, Optometry Assistant – EMT Certification Prep – Pharmacy Technician – Licensed Massage Therapist Craft – Commercial Driver License Program – Electrician Apprenticeship – Carpenter Apprenticeship – Solar Safety Training – Automotive Service Excellence for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles – Renewable Energy Certification – Photovoltaic and Battery Based Design Information Technology – CompTIA Network+ (networking, 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 in the announced in the coming months, but officials say they could include training in working film, television, graphic design and media.