By Susannah Sudborough
BU News Service
BOSTON – The Workforce Training Fund, a Massachusetts public program which provides money to businesses to train their employees on new skills, awarded grants to four different businesses in the SouthCoast in the last month, in a bid to aid the economic development of the region.
In New Bedford, Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Co., a men’s suit manufacturer, received $249,200 to train 158 employees, and anticipates creating 20 jobs by 2021, and Milhench Supply Co., a woman and family-owned maintenance supply company, received $39,000 to train 35 employees, and predicts creating four jobs by 2021.
“These grants are very important to the workforce and economic development of the city,” said Rep. Antonio Cabral, D-New Bedford. “They add additional skills for the company, making employers more efficient and productive.”
Green Brothers Fabrication, a metal manufacturer in Taunton, will allocate its $62,400 award to train 14 workers and predicts hiring five new employees. Calorique, a flexible electronics printing company in Wareham, plans to train eight workers and hire three with its $31,500 award.
“We have to help these industries thrive,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton.
The Workforce Training Fund Program is executed by Commonwealth Corporation, a public-private workforce development agency, and gives these grants on behalf of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The fund is derived from unemployment insurance paid by commonwealth employers. A small portion is redirected to the Workforce Training Fund.
The grants range from $10,000 to $250,000 and are administered over a 2-year period. They are matched by the employer at an at-least one-to-one ratio.
Kristen Rayne, outreach manager of the Workforce Training Fund Program said that these grants upscale the workforce as a whole. She said the training they receive allows workers to command better wages while making businesses more competitive.
The added revenue businesses get as a result allows them to then hire more workers, leading to increased job growth across the state.
Last year, businesses who received Workforce Training Fund grants added jobs at a rate of 11.9 percent, compared to the state and national average of 3.8 percent.
“Eight new hires doesn’t seem like a lot when you compare it to the number of jobs a new company coming into a town might create,” said Pacheco. “But this is what makes the base of the economy grow by giving already existing businesses an incentive.”
Rayne said the Workforce Training Fund typically awards between $18 and $22 million.
Last year, they granted a total of $21.17 million. This money went to over 900 employers in the commonwealth and was used to train over 15,000 employees.
The vast majority of these grants go to the manufacturing industry, which claimed 56 percent of the funds. The finance and insurance industry came in second with 11 percent, with the professional, scientific and technical services industry in third with 9 percent.
Rayne said these South Coast businesses were given grants because they had a competitive grant application. She said the Workforce Training Fund looks for three things in an application: a need for training, meaning a business problem or objective that can be solved with employee training, a training plan that is logically related to that objective, and quantifiable metrics that will be used as key performance indicators that will be used to monitor success as a result of the grant.
In the case of Green Brothers Fabrication, Rayne said, the company was looking for quality assurance training that was needed because they are a part of a supply chain that requires strict adherence to quality guidelines.
But the training these grants allow companies to do has a great range of applications. For instance, Calorique’s grant will be used to train employees on strategic marketing, teaching them to utilize marketing tools such as email marketing campaigns and search engine optimization.
Pacheco said these grants can fulfill significant company needs. He said industries such as metal working, of which Green Brothers Fabrication is a part of, have seen a lack of available trained workers because young people have not shown interest in entering them despite the job opportunities being lucrative.
These grants can have other benefits, such as building fruitful relationships between the education and other industries, said Pacheco. Rayne said that businesses often apply for grants in conjunction with a training vendor.
Many businesses are still unaware that this program is an option, Rayne said, and she hopes that legislators and other state leaders alert more businesses to the benefits this program can provide so that they can get the employee training they need.
This article was previously published with South Coast Today.