Report Title:

Lifelong Learning Accounts; Adult Education; Training



Establishes a Lifelong Learning Accounts program in the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to support upgraded training for the incumbent workforce, and encourages participation by employers and employees.



H.B. NO.


















SECTION 1. The legislature finds that it is increasingly critical for Hawaii's workforce to be prepared for the high-skill demands of a twenty-first century economy. An unprepared workforce is a serious threat to the State's continued competitiveness and economic development. Research by the workforce development council and other agencies, show that while a highly trained, entry-level workforce is very important, that entry-level workforce improves the overall skill level only gradually over time. An estimated seventy-five per cent of the workers who will serve the economy over the next ten years are already on the job. The impending retirement of baby boom workers is expected to exceed the entry of new workers into the economy over the next several decades.

If Hawaii is to maintain a growing economy, it must balance this shortage of workers with a more skilled and productive workforce. This means ensuring the continuous, lifelong, upgrading of skills by workers already in the workforce as well as better training among new entrants.

However, in Hawaii's predominantly small-business economy, it is difficult for firms to establish and maintain a program to upgrade training for their workers, or for those workers to engage in lifelong learning. As a result, only a very small proportion of the workforce is seriously engaged in skill upgrading. It is critical that Hawaii optimize its limited, existing workforce by assisting in the upgrading of skills and instilling the concept that learning does not stop with a traditional, formal education.

An important step is to establish a funding mechanism to encourage and help leverage private sector spending for incumbent worker training. One mechanism that has been instituted in a number of states is lifelong learning accounts.

Lifelong learning accounts are employer-matched educational savings accounts used to finance workers' education and training. The concept allows an individual worker to contribute money to a lifelong learning account and have that contribution matched by the worker's employer, similar to a 401(k), but for the purpose of education and training. Lifelong learning accounts encourage a partnership between workers and employers to effectively leverage resources and increase access to education and training. The accounts are grounded in the idea that individual responsibility, choice, and empowerment are key building blocks for self-reliance.

This Act establishes a lifelong learning account program in Hawaii, in order to encourage employer and employee investment in upgrading the skills of the incumbent workforce. In recent years, the United States Congress has debated this issue. This bill will establish the framework for a lifelong learning account program in order to qualify should federal programs be implemented and to also seek private funding through sources such as the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.

SECTION 2. Chapter 394, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

" 394- Lifelong learning account. (a) There is established a lifelong learning accounts program.

(b) For the purposes of this section, "lifelong learning account" means an individual asset account held by a trustee, custodian, or fiduciary approved by the department of labor and industrial relations on behalf of employees working in the State. The moneys in the individual asset account shall be used only to pay education related expenses incurred by or on behalf of the employee.

(c) The department shall establish a lifelong learning accounts program to:

(1) Qualify for federal funding that may become available;

(2) Encourage participation from employers and employees in diverse industries, geographic areas, and economic levels across the state;

(3) Make technical assistance available to employers and to provide educational and career counseling to individual participants;

(4) In conformity with and subject to chapter 91, the director of labor and industrial relations shall adopt rules, not inconsistent with this chapter, which the director deems necessary for or conducive to its proper application and enforcement of this chapter.

SECTION 3. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2009.