Businesses should act now to attain workforce training grants

July 15, 2013 

In July, we celebrate Independence Day, families take summer vacations, and the State of Florida launches a new budget year. That's right: July 1 signaled a fresh start on many sources of funding made available by the state.

For businesses, July means the start of another round of work force training grants -- matching funds that can reimburse employers for a portion of training costs.

Work force training grants are important to our local economy because as employees improve their skills and become more relevant in today's marketplace, employers can grow their businesses at a faster place, creating even more jobs. Also, as employees learn new skills, they may earn higher wages to spend on housing, transportation, consumer goods and more, supporting other local businesses.

So, what's the catch? The key is for employers to apply early because the grants are divvied out first-come, first-served.

Several programs are provided by different agencies, and the options can be confusing. Nonetheless, with assistance from the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., businesses in Manatee County have been highly successful in earning matching grants that help pay for training from providers such as State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and Manatee Technical Institute.

"We strongly recommend that businesses look into their training needs and how the various grant programs can accelerate developing their workforce," said Brad Clatt, business unit manager at DENTSPLY Raintree Essix Glenroe in South Manatee County. "The EDC and Suncoast Workforce apply their expertise in providing training solutions based upon your specific business needs, and then guide you through the application process."

DENTSPLY is justone of many area businesses that have successfully used training grant programs toramp up for multipleexpansions. In fact,

Suncoast Workforce reports that in the state's last fiscal year, 32 businesses in Manatee County were awarded training grants to upgrade skills for more than 600 employees.

Combining the grants and the substantial matching funds from employers, the investment in training totals more than $9 million.

Here's a quick rundown on the major training grant programs available as of July 1:

• Quick Response Training Grants: For businesses that expand or relocate in Florida, are in targeted industries, and that export goods or services outside of Florida. The state budgeted $12 million for this program, which is 50 percent higher than the previous year.

• Incumbent Worker Training: For upgrading skills of existing employees. Both Quick Response and Incumbent Worker are administered at the state level by Workforce Florida.

• Employed Worker Training: Similar to the state's Incumbent Worker program, but administered locally by Suncoast Workforce and generally targeted to a shorter timeframe for training.

• On the Job Training: The grant shares the company's cost of training new employees in-house.

For businesses, it's not important to remember which programs do what. It's important to know that training assistance exists, the EDC and Suncoast Workforce can help, and you need to act now while the funding is available. For more information, call 941-748-4842, ext. 145.

Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (www.thinkbradentonarea.com), may be contacted at info@thinkbradentonarea.com or 941-748-4842, ext. 128.

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