Biz Basics

By Ilene Denton November 30, 2009

Training Workers


›› As companies have shed staff or left open positions vacant over the past couple of rough-and-tumble years, many of their employees have had to take on responsibilities that they may not have been trained to do.

Enter the Suncoast Workforce Board, which, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and other, pre-existing, federal grant monies, supplements up to 100 percent of the cost of enrolling employees in dozens

of courses offered at local schools such as Keiser University, State College of Florida and Manatee Technical Institute—everything from computer support to dental assistant to automotive tech—for companies that want to expand their employees’ skills.

The $500,000 initiative, half of which is funded by federal stimulus monies, is working, says Suncoast Workforce Board communications director Sally Hill, as a broad range of local companies in various industries—from manufacturing to distribution, a medical center and a call center—are taking advantage of this employed worker training. "This is an opportunity for employers to ensure that their employees’ skills remain current and their companies can remain competitive," she says.

Berry Plastics, manufacturer of plastic lids for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, relies on Suncoast Workforce Board-funded training for everything from forklift and overhead crane certification to CPR and first-aid training, says human resources manager Martha Atkins. The company this year nearly doubled its employees to 195 when it won the contract to produce tampon applicators for Kotex, and its need to train new employees on a variety of equipment grew accordingly. "Even if you have an idea for training but you’re not sure where to find a provider, they can find trainers for you," Atkins says.

The level of reimbursement, including books and materials, depends on the type of training, says Hill. Recent fully covered courses include industrial foremanship and supervision, business supervision and management, applied welding technologies, medical language and call center management, she says.

If a company needs customized training—if it brings in a new piece of equipment, for example, and needs to train their employees on its usage—the board will pay up to 50 percent of the cost.

"It’s good for employers," says Hill, "because it may be something they’ve had to postpone or not a priority because of the economy."

The employees being trained must be permanent, full-time employees and must have completed their probationary period. They must be 18 years or older and make less than $30 an hour. If a company has several employees it wants to train in these occupations, but one or two makes more than $30 an hour, Hill says, the employees can still go through the training, but the employer must pick up the cost of training for them.

"I start the year asking, ‘What training do I need?’ and I go to the Suncoast Workforce Board to ask, ‘Will you pay for this?’" says Berry Plastics’ Atkins. "There have been times I was sure they’d say no, but they said, ‘Sure, we’ll pay for that.’"

Interested employers should contact Runa Badal, lead employed worker training coordinator at the Suncoast Workforce Board, at (941) 358-4200 ext 3139, or e-mail [email protected]

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