As manufacturing rebounds from the pandemic and order books fill (maybe you even have a healthy backlog), you might need your employees to possess new skills, particularly as it remains hard to find additional workers. You may have just gotten a new piece of equipment on your production floor and need training on its use. You might have purchased a new ERP software and need to ensure employees know how to use it (they can be so complicated). You may want to provide opportunities for advancement for your production staff to enable retention. You may run a Learning and Development organization and want to make your training more affordable to spur sales.
Any of these situations would make any leader turn to internal or external resources to meet their training needs. However, many times, cost is a barrier to organizations obtaining needed workforce development. This is where grants come in!
It is a little-known fact that almost every state in the United States has training grants that companies can use to offset workforce development costs. These typically fall into one of two categories listed below (along with examples of these types of grants):
- Grants awarded to companies directly for training their employees
- Incumbent Worker and On-the-Job Training Grants
- State Economic Development Grants
- Grants awarded to intermediaries (community colleges, nonprofits, etc.) to develop and deliver programs to companies
- State Economic Development Grants
- Foundation Grants
From the standpoint of a company wishing to provide training to their employees, there are pros and cons of each category.
- Grants awarded directly to companies
- Pros – Can often cover the cost of internal trainers’ wages during training; have a wider selection of training providers
- Cons – The burden of paperwork and time is on the company that is applying for the funds
- Grants awarded to intermediaries
- Pros – Company has very little paperwork compared to applying directly
- Cons – Company must use the intermediary or its training partner to access funds, limits the availability of courses
These grants typically cover 50-90% of eligible training course costs (training delivery and materials). In some cases, the funding will cover room rental, instructor travel or training program development.
While these grants are widely available and can save companies thousands of dollars and enable their training budget to have a greater impact company wide, they are not guaranteed. Funding typically runs on a state’s fiscal year cycle (usually July 1 through June 30), and when the funds run out, you may have to wait until the next fiscal year to access training dollars. In addition, incumbent worker training grant funding only covers training conducted after the grant is approved, which can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
Tip to Get the Most Out of Incumbent Worker Training Grants
What can you do to ensure you are able to access the maximum training dollars to support your workforce development goals? Here are some tips:
- Develop a training plan – It is time consuming and risky to request funding for one course at a time, primarily due to additional paperwork and the risk of your funder running out of funds. I recommend companies develop an annual training plan. This can take many forms, but I like the plans that start with a matrix of skills needed by employee, then an assignment of training course(s) to attain those skills with a schedule for completion. This is a great way to ensure you capture the training needed for a year, and who your participants will be; this is valuable information for a grant application.
- Have a list of approved trainers on hand – Once you know the skills your incumbent workers need to either do their current jobs better or to move up in the company, research training providers who can deliver the training. I suggest getting 2-3 quotes, if possible, for course delivery, and then keep a file with contact and course information for each course. This way, you will be prepared to engage with providers once a training grant opportunity is released.
- Consider certificate or apprenticeship programs – Instead of a course-by-course approach, consider developing a certificate series with a community college or private trainer. Or perhaps you can develop a custom apprenticeship with an organization like RADD Training to formalize your onboarding or upskilling program. Many states have funding to support both apprenticeship program development and execution.
My hope is that every manufacturer will know what training grants exist and take maximum advantage of the programs available to them. If you wish to develop a grant strategy for your organization, but don’t know where to start, contact me via the Lakeview Consulting website. I would be happy to set up a call to discuss your situation and how we can help.