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Government Grants for Training Your Employees

Use these strategies to help you find and apply for grants.

Federal workforce training grants are awarded through state or local workforce investment boards. It's not always easy to navigate the system, but you may find help at your local community college.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced in February 2013 that $124,713 in job-training grants would be going to eight companies, including several manufacturers.

  • ConAgra Foods received a $15,000 grant to train maintenance employees and supervisors in new approaches that would minimize downtime and increase output.
  • $25,000 went to Smith & Nephew for training employees in statistics involved with new product introduction and transfer activities.
  • ThyssenKrupp Elevator was awarded $25,000 for management leadership training.
  • Rose Fabricating and Industrial Solutions received $4,485 for blueprint-reading skills.
  • $3,468 went to Apcom for machining, tooling and maintenance certification.
  • Pinnacle Foods Group was awarded a $25,000 to train 85 employees in high-performance work teams strategy.

Money like this comes from the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which provides training funds for the unemployed and also helps companies upgrade their current (incumbent) workers' skills. The funds travel from the federal government through state workforce investment boards that determine priorities, industry focus, budgets and mechanisms for awarding grants to businesses. Applying for grants and then managing them according to regulations takes time, experience and a specialized skill set. You could attempt to do it yourself, but it isn't always easy--and you already have a lot on your hands keeping your business operating.

There is a little-known path to planning and funding training, however, and help may be available at the nearest community college. The best of them have continuing-education divisions with grant writers and managers, plus the manufacturing coursework and trainers you will need.

How does it work? The community college finds the grant money, which is awarded to your company. You pay the community college for the training services they render. In August 2013, for example, Washington State had $2 million available for grants to pay half of a company's training costs. The employer pays for the other half with a cash or "in-kind" match. Paying half may still sound steep, but an in-kind match might be in the form of wages paid to employees while training, training materials or machine time for training purposes. Experienced grant writers will know the ins and outs.

Not every town or region has a community college that provides this grant expertise. If yours doesn't, you can look beyond your local area for another community college to help you. You may also have luck finding funds through the state workforce development board, the state department of labor and employment or a One-Stop Career Center in your area. In addition, a Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) office in your area may provide grant writing and management services. Find one through the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST).

Employers should speak up if the local community college system does not have workforce-training grant resources. Whether it is your voice alone or as part of an employer network, you can make community colleges and state legislators aware of your needs--and remind them how it will benefit your whole region. As Governor Haslam said when he announced the Tennessee grants, they not only help educate workers but also provide incentives to employers looking to relocate or expand in the state.





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