Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that $1.2 million in funding still remained of an $8 million federal grant for hiring New Yorkers who had been unemployed for 26 weeks or longer.
The program aims to help companies train employees for empty positions, said Chris White, assistant communications director in the New York State Department of Labor.
“The biggest hurdle businesses face in hiring is the cost of training,” White said. “If you help ease that burden, the likelihood that they would eventually be hired is dramatically higher.”
By offsetting the training costs, the labor department hopes companies will be able to train and hire the unemployed, especially those who have been out of work for months. The training commitment lasts for six months and companies are given different amounts of grant money depending on their size and employment needs.
The grant is available to all sizes of companies that contact the state department, White said.
“It’s very broad and we encourage any type of company to reach out to us as we want to get this money available to training unemployed individuals,” White said. So far, the federally funded grant has helped 600 businesses provide training and employment to more than 1,200 individuals.
Other states are providing grants to companies to train already existing employees so they can promote from within and hire additional labor. The training grant is intended to help small and medium-sized companies grow their skills, said Rob Duncan, project manager for the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund.
“The objective is increasing the productivity and competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses by providing more skills for workers and creating more new job opportunities,” Duncan said.
The grant requires that companies submit a two-year proposal in which they identify a target area and a training plan to address it. Most are successful, according to Duncan. OnProcess Technology recently received $167,330 to provide training and professional development to 500 of its employees.
“With the funds of the commonwealth, our company is able to jumpstart, in many ways, the next level of development,” said Rick Lunetta, vice president of human resources at OnProcess.
OnProcess received a training grant once before and then had to wait two years before reapplying.
“This time our focus is on customer service, continuous improvement, project management and supervisory training,” Lunetta said. “The goal is to align both management and non-management training efforts around those four major curricular topics.”
OnProcess plans to hire TCIC Inc., a training and consulting firm, to help improve its processes and customer service. Overall, Massachusetts awarded $2.8 million to 37 companies across the state.
As the economy begins to recover, more companies are looking to state governments to help them expand and stay competitive. The Massachusetts program began in 1998. During the recession, many companies weren’t able to make the two-year commitment, but the pace has picked up recently.
“There has been a 30 percent increase over the last three or four years as the economy begins to recover and demand for training increases,” Duncan said.
The grant has been especially beneficial to the manufacturing, technology, finance and scientific industries.
“That’s seems to be a sweet spot for workforce training funding, as companies are promoting people with a technical background into business offices, where they need to expand their business expertise,” Duncan said.
One of the hidden incentives of the grant is that it encourages companies to develop internal processes for training and developing their employees, said Lunetta of OnProcess.
“The relationship between manager and direct report is very important and publicly may go unrecognized, but it is the beginning of succession planning,” Lunetta said. Improving that relationship is a direct but perhaps unforeseen byproduct of providing funding for training and hiring.
The Massachusetts government is hoping the training will also encourage companies to hire for new positions, and OnProcess is looking to that goal as well.
“I’m pretty positive there should be significant movement vis-a-vis promotion and backfill,” Lunetta said.
Mary Camille Izlar is an editorial intern at Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.