WGA Annual Meeting Day 1: Gov. Daugaard releases Workforce Initiative report, governors explore new technology, impact of wildfire

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard released the first-year report of the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative and hosted keynotes by two Cabinet Secretaries on the opening day of the Western Governors’ Association 2018 Annual Meeting in Rapid City, S.D.

Six Western Governors and a Canadian Premiere joined Gov. Daugaard at the meeting, including from left: Matt Mead (Wyoming), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Gary Herbert (Utah), Gov. Daugaard, Steve Bullock (Montana), Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Butch Otter (Idaho), and Premier Scott Moe (Saskatchewan).

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury opened the meeting and Gov. Daugaard, the Chair of WGA, offered opening remarks that highlighted the value of WGA.

"The Western Governors’ Association is special because it's a non-partisan organization that actually gets things done. It provides opportunities for non-political conversations about the issues western states have in common – issues like transportation, trade, energy, and workforce – and those conversations result in action," said the Governor.

Highlights from the day’s sessions at the Holiday Inn Rushmore Plaza:

Keynote: Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta

"(Opioid) figures are startling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics asked in one of the monthly unemployment surveys: ‘Did you take a painkiller yesterday?’ And 44% of prime age (25-55), unemployed men answered ‘yes.’ The next question, ‘Was it a prescription?’ And 33% said they took a prescription painkiller yesterday. That’s a frightening statistic.”

“We have to return flexibility to states in how they use Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding. DOL has developed waivers for 14 states and territories in how they use their WIOA dollars. … If a governor says ‘This is a great program, we’re getting a great return, can we move some money to it?’ I want to be able to work with governors to make that happen.”

Roundtable: Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative

Panelists shared major findings and best practices that arose from the past year’s work on the Chairman’s Initiative of Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The first-year report of the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative was also released, including findings to help governors build the regional economy. (Download the report)

Stuart Andreason, Director, Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta: “Higher level critical thinking, problem solving, and the hard-to-replace human skills of communication and collaboration won’t be replaced by robots. We need to focus on making sure we are cultivating those skills in education and the workplace."

Chauncy Lennon, Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase: “We need to show how the dollars we invest in workforce are better for employers, families, and communities. We need to develop the data tools that tell the story of that impact and measure that impact.”

Jon Schnur, Chief Executive Officer, America Achieves: “Forty years ago, a high school degree used to be the ticket to a middle-class lifestyle. Now, it’s a ticket to nowhere; 99% of good jobs require more than a high school degree, and that’s been a massive shift.

Roundtable: Technology Tools for Governors

Better hardware and software, lower costs and more data provide greater opportunities (and challenges) for states to better serve citizens and manage government operations. The panel moderated by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum highlighted cutting-edge developments that can help policymakers.

Denise Pearl, Cloud Senior Business Executive, Google: "The work that Google does is driven by the mentality that we don’t have a data problem, we have a search problem. For example, we helped with National Prescription Drug Takeback Day. In one day, the U.S. returned over 1 million pounds of prescription drugs. Google participated by creating maps with easily accessible information on the location of drop-off locations."

Tamara Dukes, VP of Business Development, NIC: "About 84% of 4,000 people in a recent survey said that dealing with government is stressful. They don’t understand distinctions necessarily between which government is local, state and federal. People just think that government is confusing and stressful in general."

Marquis Cabrera, Global Leader of Digital Government Transformation, IBM: "There is a fear that we don’t have the cybersecurity talent to protect America today, and we see talent continue to leave to countries like Switzerland due to policies targeted at poaching cyber-talent. We need to create programs in America to keep the workforce here and develop cybersecurity talent at home."

Governor Burgum: "As state governments we have an aging workforce and have a workforce that doesn’t always possess the skills for a cloud mobile world. States budget roughly 3% on technology, and that is way below what is spent by high performers in the private sector. Private sector leaders that are investing heavily in research in development are doing a huge service for governments. Those developments trickle into the public sector."

Keynote: Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson

Secretary Wilson thanked the states for their work to help integrate state Air National Guard units with active Air Force operations. "Some of our greatest opportunities and resources are in the American West,” she said. The United States Air Force is a significant contributor to many economies across western states. Across the nation, the Air Force has 670,000 active-duty Guard, Reserve and civilian Air Force personnel.

Roundtable: Wildfire’s Environmental Challenges

Discussion focused on the impacts that wildfire has on water supplies and regional air quality, and steps that governments and the private sector can take to reduce wildfire’s negative effects on the environment. In addition, the Western Governors’ National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative Year-Two Report was released during the session.

Mary Uhl, Executive Director, Western States Air Resources Council: "In the West, where we have wonderful scenic vistas, there are increasingly times where we cannot view them due to fire impacts. Pollution effects have been found throughout indoor locations where fires are burning. For Missoula last July, there wasn’t a good indoor place to be."

Sarah Greenberger, SVP, Conservation Policy, National Audubon Society: "Rangeland fire doesn’t make the news in the same way as forest fires. But the West is seeing larger and more frequent rangeland fires, largely due to the spread of invasive species and grasses ... Even with all of the progress we've made, there still isn’t enough science or funding to tackle this issue."

Christy Plumer, Chief Conservation Officer, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership: "The fire funding fix ensures fire borrowing no longer impacts federal budgets in such a dramatic way ... The non-profit community will need to work with governors and agencies to ensure that these funds remain in the budget moving forward."

Read the Annual Meeting Day 2 Recap, Day Three Recap

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