Hawaii receives $16.4M for workforce development program

The University of Hawaii at Manoa will receive $16.4 million from the federal government to administer a workforce development project called Resilient Hawaii.

Hawaii was one of 32 applicants awarded grants from in the Good Jobs Challenge. The American Rescue Plan Act allotted $500 million for the competition that drew more than 500 applications, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Resilient Hawaii will train 3,000 adults with a goal of placing at least 75% of those who complete the training into good jobs, according to the grant application. The project will focus on four industry sectors identified as recession resilient: clean energy, creative industries, health care and technology.

One of the goals is to move Hawaii’s economy away from being so dependent on tourism, the authors of the application said.

“The coronavirus pandemic exposed the state’s high economic dependence on the tourism industry,” the authors wrote. “At the onset of the pandemic with restrictions on travel, Hawaii unemployment went from one of the nation’s lowest (2.0% in 1/2020) to the nation’s highest (21.9% in 5/2020) showcasing what the local economists describe as ‘riding the tourism roller coaster.’ While the pandemic had a severe impact on Hawaii’s hospitality industry and workers, it has created a unique opportunity to address labor shortages and workforce needs elsewhere in Hawaii’s economy.”

Over 50 employers, training providers, and organizations will take part in implementing the workforce development project over a span of three years, according to the application. Of the 3,000 people expected to receive training, 1,000 will be Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders, the applicants said.

It is estimated that over $9.4 million, or 69% of the $16.4 million grant, will go toward program implementation funding including $2,800 per participant, according to the grant application. Over $3.1 million will be used for overarching program funding including four full-time and three part-time project personnel, domestic travel costs and information system expenses.

Three percent of the grant money will cover system development funding for things like sector partnership development in clean energy and creative industries. Program design funding will take up about 4% of the grant funds, the applicants said.

The project is also meant to address worker shortages in health care and technology. According to the application, health care employers reported 2,200 open nonphysician job vacancies and just under 900 vacancies in the technology sector.

“Resilient Hawaii will target adults seeking new or better employment. This includes displaced workers affected by the pandemic, or unemployed, underemployed, and incumbent workers who can advance in their career path with new skills and competencies. The project will focus its efforts and resources on training participants for the skills, credentials, and occupations that employers need,” the organization said in its application.

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