Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, chairman of the National Governors Association, stopped in Las Vegas on Wednesday to discuss an effort to create good-paying jobs, though the Democrat hesitated to give economic development advice to Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak.
“I wouldn’t give Sisolak advice, but I think what he will work on is the same thing all of us are working on,” Bullock told a crowd gathered at Park MGM hotel for the association’s regional leadership conference. “In a 21st-century economy, none of the state economies can be dependent upon one specific industry or one specific resource. Economic diversification needs to be key.”
Nevada has long depended on gaming and mining to fuel its economy, riding the ups and downs of the traditionally boom-and-bust industries, although in recent years leaders have sought to diversify the state economy and attract tech and clean energy jobs.
The state’s next-largest revenue producer after sales tax is gaming fees. The tax, which represents about 18 percent of total general fund revenue, is expected to grow just over 3 percent over the next two years, according to financial projections released Monday.
Bullock, who said he considers Gov. Brian Sandoval a close friend and served as vice chairman when Sandoval chaired the NGA, credited the outgoing Republican for transforming Nevada’s economy and attracting companies like Tesla to provide higher-paying jobs.
Sandoval was not at the discussion Wednesday. A spokeswoman said he was attending the State of the West symposium at Stanford University.
“While not directly here in Las Vegas, when I look at what’s happening in Northern Nevada with Tesla and with others. … You’re not only building big facilities, but you’re providing opportunities for somebody who gets a professionally recognized credential to get a job there,” Bullock said.
During the discussion Wednesday, Bullock said states have to work with employers to understand their needs. He said nontraditional pathways such as apprenticeships, internships and work-based learning programs will play a large role in preparing the workforce of the future. Montana has 1,200 apprentice fields, Bullock said.
“For a whole lot of folks, they don’t need to get the traditional college degree,” Bullock said. “But if we begin with the base premise that we know a high school (diploma) isn’t going to be good enough, we also know that there’s a lot of different pathways to get someone the skills that they need to succeed in the economy of today and tomorrow.”
That starts with helping employers see the value in such programs, said Anna Gatlin Schilling of the Strada Education Network.
“One interesting thing we found out with our employer survey is 39 percent of employers have internship programs,” Schilling said Wednesday. “Only 12 percent actually think they’re valuable.”