Educating your workforce is a fundamental component in productivity and business advancement; however, one of the key items holding a company back from growth is its ability to educate and advance its workforce.
In today’s global marketplace, local businesses must have employees who can take on additional skills in order to remain competitive. Those skills must be regularly upgraded to continuously provide value. Yet, finding the financial resources to educate your workforce, as well as ensure they are prepared for how their jobs may shift in the future, can often be a sticking point.
In 1998, Massachusetts recognized helping businesses invest in their workforce would help with the economic vitality of the commonwealth, and the Workforce Training Fund was born. The WTF focuses on small to midsized businesses without the funds to invest in their workforces. While many businesses have taken advantage of the different types of funding available through this fund, others are still unaware they are eligible.
Requirements for access to the WTF are relatively simple. Companies eligible for free training opportunities must be located in Massachusetts, pay into the state unemployment fund, and hold a certificate of good standing with the Department of Revenue. From there, companies can choose to apply for a General Program Training Grant, Express Grant or be part of the Direct Access Program. The General Program Training Grant offers a maximum of $250,000 for businesses (grant funds must be company-matched dollar for dollar); the Express Grant offers a maximum $30,000 each year (companies must contribute 50% of the total cost of training) and the Direct Access Program offers eligible businesses access up to $15,000 in funds per year (businesses are required to pay their employees’ full wages while they are in training).
Once businesses are approved to receive funding, they can choose from a variety of workforce development courses offered by pre-approved training providers. These courses run the gamut from soft skills training and business courses to manufacturing and other critical workplace skills needed to bring employees to the next level.
Pre-approved training providers are those businesses delivering the training to approved companies. Once a training provider becomes approved, they may request grant funding for their classes to be listed on an online, universal course registry service.
While training providers can be any business meeting the state requirements (found on the Workforce Training Fund website), many such as Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, have established workforce development programs already in place. They are already well-versed in the needs of the commonwealth’s businesses, and many have spent countless hours with local businesses learning about their needs and developing programs to support those needs. Sometimes these training providers will hold information sessions to help businesses become registered.
Once businesses are registered and given the greenlight to use funds from the WTF, they can visit the registry, see what courses are available, and register their employees for relevant courses. Businesses can register for any course on the site, regardless of its location. All course registration, logistics, payment are then arranged between the training vendor and the company.
Late summer is the perfect time to step up your game and learn more about the WTF. Courses begin this fall. Visit workforcetrainingfund.org.
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