Leverage the Talent You Have by Upskilling Your Workforce

May 22, 2023
Written by: Micki Vandeloo

I continue to hear the refrain from manufacturers (and others), “I can’t find workers”. While Unira Workforce seeks to create communities in which manufacturers and workers thrive, we do acknowledge that this takes time and effort. In this article, I am providing an alternative to hiring new workers – upskilling the workforce you currently have. We will discuss the options to upskill your workforce and how to fund those efforts.

Options for Upskilling Your Workforce

Sometimes it’s easier to hire for entry level positions and elevate your existing workforce to new opportunities. Here are some options to consider for upskilling your workforce:

Conduct Internal Training

One rather inexpensive option for upskilling your workforce is to arrange on the job training with promising employees. This can be conducted by a supervisor, or an experienced fellow employee. The trainee can shadow more experienced employees or there can be time set aside in the production schedule to conduct a more structured training (or there can be a combination of both). One recommendation I would make is that, if you choose this option, you create a simple skills test for the trainee to take to ensure he/she understands the concepts prior to letting that employee perform learned tasks.

Outside Vendor Training

If your employees don’t have the time or the knowledge to perform training to upskill current employees, you can hire an outside vendor to conduct the training. In some cases, this can be a community college, and in others, a training vendor with expertise in the instruction of desired skills can conduct the training. This option and internal training are ideal if there are a small number of employees to upskill.

Upskill with Apprenticeships

If your company has embraced apprenticeships to attract workers to desired roles, current employees can also be enrolled in these programs. This is the ideal way to upskill current employees, as it provides a structured program for training an individual on tasks, mentoring by an experienced co-worker and progressive wage increases. If your company hasn’t created apprenticeship programs yet, and you have a significant number of current employees you wish to upskill, I recommend you contact RADD Training, experts on designing, implementing and managing apprenticeship programs to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Funding Your Workforce Upskilling Efforts

 If you are thinking that all this talk of training is well and good, but you don’t think such training is in your budget, I have some recommendations for grants that will help you fund these efforts.

On-the-Job Training (OJT) Grants

These are offered in most states by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) Centers, also known as Job Centers or American Job Centers, depending on the state. These grants fund a percentage of an employee’s wages for up to the first six months of employment. The percentage of funding is established based on characteristics of the employee being training. Typically those in underserved populations, veterans and those previously incarcerated for non-violent offenses have a large percentage of their wages covered. To obtain these grants, you typically have to contact your local American Job Center prior to hiring an individual so they can pre-qualify them prior to hire. If the individual qualifies, you will likely have to file some paperwork prior to receiving the grant.

Incumbent Worker Training Grants

These, again, are offered by the WIOA Centers in most states. These grants can be used to train current, or incumbent, workers who have been employed for six months or longer. These grants typically cover at least 50% of the training costs, and will often cover both training offered by in-house staff as well as outside training providers.

Apprenticeship Grants

Many states are supporting apprenticeship development and execution by offering Apprenticeship Grants. These grants can support everything from Related Technical Instruction curriculum design to the costs associated with an employee’s participation in an apprenticeship (tools, instruction time, mentor’s time, etc).

Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)

According to the Department of Labor[1], “The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to employers who invest in American job seekers who have consistently faced barriers to employment. Employers may meet their business needs and claim a tax credit if they hire an individual who is in a WOTC targeted group.”

Connect with the Resources You Need for Upskilling Your Workforce

To find grants to support your upskilling initiatives, subscribe to the Manufacturing Grants Database from Lakeview Consulting. This database provides current information on various grants, including training grants. Grants can be sorted by state and by activity.

Many of you have talented and promising individuals in your workforce. Why not provide a career pathway full of opportunities for advancement for these employees by upskilling them? This is a sure way to retain great employees!

[1] https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wotc

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