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Why Not Drug Test State-Funded Job Training?

Today the Governor officially ordered Workforce WV to begin drug testing those enrolled in job training programs (see below press release). What was not mentioned was that these programs are completely funded by federal dollars and that they mostly go to the “disadvantaged and at-risk youth, adults, and dislocated workers.”

However, the big question is why didn’t the Governor include the state’s only taxpayer funded workforce program – the Governor’s Guaranteed Work Force Program – in his executive order on drug testing? While we are big fans of this program – and not to mention that we think it needs significantly more investment – it is mostly a subsidy to large businesses. Oh, that might explain it.

More to come…


For Immediate Release
April 24, 2012
Contact: Amy Shuler Goodwin
Gov. Tomblin signs Executive Order No. 8-12 requiring Workforce WV clients to pass drug test prior to training enrollment
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today met with Wheeling area business leaders and members of the Regional Economic Development Partnership, known as RED, to discuss local business challenges including problems related to substance abuse.  During the roundtable discussion, Gov. Tomblin signed Executive Order No. 8-12 which orders Workforce West Virginia, a division of the state Department of Commerce, to implement a drug screening policy for participants of its employment training services.

“For our businesses to prosper, we need to understand the challenges they face. That is why I called for this roundtable discussion,” Gov. Tomblin said. “One of the biggest challenges relates to substance abuse by employees. I continuously hear from business leaders located all across the state, that they have jobs available but the candidates cannot pass a pre-employment drug screening. When this happens we have wasted taxpayer dollars, hurt our businesses, and limit our economic growth. My executive order will save taxpayer dollars by insuring graduates of Workforce West Virginia training are drug-free and ready to work.”

Executive Order No. 8-12 requires all participants seeking to enroll in training-level services funded by Workforce West Virginia to pass a ten-panel drug test. Participants who test positive shall not receive training services for 90 days. If a participant fails a second test, training services shall not be available for one calendar year.

“A drug-free workforce is critical to our state’s economic success. By screening applicants before they enter training, we are investing our training dollars in improving the productivity and success of our workforce,” said Russell L. Fry, Acting Executive Director of WorkForce West Virginia.

Workforce West Virginia is in the process of implementing Gov. Tomblin’s order and will establish an effective date in the near future. Executive Order No. 8-12 is available here.

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Low-Wage Workers More Educated Today

Here is an interesting, if troubling blog post from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The post shows that low-wage workers (those making less than $10.00 an hour in 2011 dollars) are becoming more educated. 

In every state across the country, low wage workers are more educated than they were thirty years ago, meaning that an education is less of a guarantee of a good paying job than it was in the past.
In 1979-1981 only 2.9% of college educated workers in WV were low wage. For 2009-2011 that percentage had jumped to 8.1%.

State Workforce Training Spending Lowest in History


The most important asset to a firm is the presence of a well-trained and productive workforce.  One effective way the state achieves this goal is through the Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce Training Program, which provides businesses and workers with customized job training. 

Customized, state-funded job training funding is a vital piece in providing the resources needed to spur economic development and to make the state an attractive place to do business. They also provide a good bang for the buck. Economist Tim Bartik has shown that investments in customized workforce training are 17 times more effective at creating jobs than tax incentives like these and these.

Nevertheless,  as the chart below shows, the state has reduced its investment in customized job training at the worst possible time, as the state’s unemployment rate has soared due to the Great Recession.  (Today, the unemployment rate stands at  a 17-year high of 9.6%.)        

Figure 1:  State Workforce Training Spending Lowest in History

 In fact, funding for the Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce Training Program is at its lowest point since the program was created in 1994 by Governor Wise.  The Governor’s FY 2012 budget cuts the program by over $1 million from its FY2010 levels of $2.2 million. 

As Lawmakers take up the budget this week, they should consider restoring funding to the Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce Training Program back to its FY 2010 level.  Increased investments in customized workforce training will help the state attract and retain new and existing firms relative to our surrounding states.