Officials say pilot project that cross-trains state workers save - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Officials say pilot project that cross-trains state workers saves money, more efficient

State workers are cross-trained as part of a new pilot program aimed at saving the state money. State workers are cross-trained as part of a new pilot program aimed at saving the state money.
The new pilot project was launched at public housing projects, but officials say it could have statewide applications. The new pilot project was launched at public housing projects, but officials say it could have statewide applications.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The state is touting the success of a new public housing program that's paying state workers more money to be cross-trained in different fields.

The program is also saving taxpayers money and getting more people into housing faster, according to Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.

Four years ago, it took 261 days on average to renovate a state public housing unit. Because of new programs such as the multi-skilled worker pilot project, that turnaround time has been drastically reduced -- to just seven days.

Ray Valiente is a member of one of six teams of state public housing workers in the new pilot program that began October 1.

They have volunteered to be cross-trained in carpentry, painting, plumbing or electrical work and in exchange are paid about $2,000 to $2,500 more a year.

"Every since I've been working here, I learn different things, like plumbing, electrical, carpentry. I learn a lot over here," Valiente said.

Ouansafi said, "There is a tremendous amount of benefit for them. One, there is an upward mobility. Two, they get to learn a new skill. They can't stay 30 years just doing painting. They get to learn something new."

State housing officials said the pilot program will cost about $160,000 a year in higher pay and benefits, but the department will collect $3 million more a year in rent and federal subsidies because units will be renovated quicker.

"It translates to more rent. It translates to more housing quicker for the homeless and for the folks, the most vulnerable population. It also translates for more subsidy from the federal government," Ouansafi said.

Also under the project, for the first time the workers' performance is being judged partly on attitude.

"We want to make sure that people have a good attitude. That they're here to work. They work hard. I mean that's something we made clear day one," Ouansafi said.

The new program has been approved by the union that represents the workers,

Onlookers say cross-training workers who learn a number of skills has potential application across state and county governments.

"If a lot of the other departments did something like this, it would probably help a lot. You learn more, you're able to do more so you can do more with less, basically," said Greg Cuadra, the maintenance manager for the state public housing authority.

Ouansafi agreed.

"I think the success of it, its ripple effect, will touch other agencies  and other departments.  I'm not sure how and when," he said.

The state is planning to increase the pilot program from the 38 employees working now to 63 in the next year.

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