Delaware establishes new program to retrain workers laid off during the pandemic

Delaware Gov. John Carney

Delaware Gov. John Carney answers questions regarding Delaware’s response to coronavirus during a press briefing at the Carvel State Office building in Wilmington on April 3, 2020. (Saquan Stimpson for WHYY)

Gov. John Carney has signed an executive order establishing what he called a “rapid workforce training and redeployment initiative” for Delawareans laid off from work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Delaware Department of Labor received 125,889 unemployment claims between March 15 and July 25, one measure of how the pandemic has disrupted the state’s labor market and economy, and upended the lives of thousands of residents.

“We believe strongly that workforce training and redeployment is more important than ever,” Carney said on Monday. “I’m confident as we continue to flatten the curve and the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our state … more people will go back to work, the demand for those workers will increase. So, they need to be prepared for those high-demand jobs that will be available in the future and will enable them to support themselves and families.”

The state is using $10 million in federal funding it received through the CARES Act to launch the initiative.

According to Carney’s executive order, the state’s Labor Department will work with the Delaware Workforce Development Board to establish training and certification programs for unemployed and underemployed residents and to have those programs in place by December 30.

Board chair Gary Stockbridge said workers may not be able to return to the fields they were in before, so they need to develop new skills. 

“We’re excited to piece all those together and get Delawareans back to work, hopefully in good-paying jobs,” he said. “Whether or not they’re the same as what they were before, it doesn’t matter. If they’re good-paying jobs that have a future, I’m sure they’ll be excited about it.”

Officials say the initiative could especially be an opportunity for people to find jobs in the health care industry and trades like HVAC, because there’s a higher demand for workers in these fields.

The board is working to find out where the demand is, find training providers, such as Delaware Technical Community College, that can train displaced workers quickly, and connect with businesses that are ready to hire.

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