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Committee supports jobs corps resolution

A Hawaii County Council committee voted unanimously Tuesday in support of a resolution calling for a jobs corps program to help the island recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, who introduced the resolution to the County Council Committee on Governmental Operations, Relations and Economic Development, pointed out that the pandemic has devastated the island economically and highlighted the need for more jobs untethered from the tourism industry.

“This prolonged shock of the pandemic has really hit home that we’ve got to diversify our economy if we’re going to survive,” Kierkiewicz said.

In order to strengthen the county’s economy, the resolution calls for the county Department of Research and Development to work with the Office of Housing and Community Development to develop a program modeled after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Jobs Corps program, which provides career training for participants.

Such a program would, according to the resolution, provide residents opportunities to seek careers within green industries such as conservation, renewable energy, climate adaptation and more.

While the resolution has few specifics, it calls upon Research and Development to outline how such a program would function, identify potential public-private partnerships and present recommendations regarding the program’s funding and structure to the full council by the end of March.

Other council members responded to the resolution with enthusiasm, with committee chairwoman Heather Kimball urging the county to seek federal funding sources to broaden the scope of the project.

Residents and lawmakers were also in favor of the proposal. Leilani Estates resident Robert Golden testified in support of the resolution, calling it a “no-brainer,” while an agent of Oahu Rep. Sean Quinlan attended the meeting to convey the representative’s support for the project as well.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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