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Second Grant to AIM Will Allow Companies to Train Supervisors at No Cost

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 20, 2016 1:30:00 PM

AIM for the second year in a row has been awarded a $200,000 state grant that will allow employers to improve the skills of their key supervisors at no cost.

Fourpeople.jpgAIM’s supervisory/leadership training series was among a number of initiatives to win grants under the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) Direct Access Program.

“We are honored to earn this grant for a second year and excited to use the money to help employers provide training and advancement opportunities to their front-line supervisors,” said Gary MacDonald, Executive Vice President of the AIM Employers Resource Group.

The grants are designed to meet regional demands for training that may not have the scope or scale to merit a standard Workforce Training Grant. The awards also help larger organizations that want to offer education to existing leadership, new hires, “bench players” and newly promoted supervisors.

 “A large segment of leadership teams are comprised of home-grown, high potential people who have shown technical ability, but who have not had the chance to learn the human relations and decision- making skills that are important to helping others succeed,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said companies face a multitude of internal and external issues that can be resolved, minimized or avoided by good supervisory and leadership practices:

  • Retention and turnover
  • Legal compliance and understanding of obligations under the law
  • Time management
  • Hiring the right person
  • Effective communication practices
  • Delegation and prioritization
  • Identifying and solving problems
  • Becoming an agent for and a leader of organizational change
  • Generating ideas and innovation
  • Developing and working in teams with multicultural & multigenerational members
  • Increasing employee performance
  • Understanding leadership responsibilities and accountabilities.

AIM plans to run its Supervisory Skills program multiple times during 2016 in four locations – Bridgewater, Burlington, Fitchburg and Marlborough.  The program content is applicable to any industry.

"We are very interested in helping small businesses access the fund either individually or through collaborations with other businesses with similar needs.” said Nancy Snyder, President and CEO of Commonwealth Corporation, which administers the funds for the Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  “This program allows small businesses that may not otherwise apply for a grant on their own to quickly gain access to training on topics in highest demand.” 

AIM delivers hundreds of supervisory skills training sessions each year in seminar and private settings. The staff of 10 instructors averages several decades of management and human resources experience across a variety of industries.

“The grant provides employers with a unique opportunity to improve productivity, build leadership and address legal compliance concerns at no out-of-pocket cost,” said Lori Bourgoin, Vice President of Educational Programs at AIM.

“Nothing drives workforce engagement, productivity and retention more than front-line leadership.  Well trained supervisors determine whether employees support change or resist, grow into the business or tune out.”

You may also contact Kaitlyn Buckley (kbuckley@aimnet.org  ) or Lori Bourgoin (lbourgoin@aimnet.org) for more details.

 

Topics: Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Training, Workforce Training

15 AIM Members Win Work-Force Training Grants

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Dec 10, 2015 2:50:06 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts congratulates 15 member employers who won Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) grants from the commonwealth yesterday.

ManufacturingWorkerSmall.jpgThe AIM-member employers were among 87 companies and training organizations that will share in more than $8.9 million to improve the skills of more than 7,500 existing and newly hired employees.

“With each opportunity to provide more training, skills and education, we are providing our residents and companies located here the ability to remain competitive in a global marketplace,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “As we work to close the workforce skills gap and ensure our workforce remains among the strongest in the nation, these grants will provide an important level of support and training.”

The Workforce Training Fund provides grants up to $250,000 to companies of any size in Massachusetts to pay for workforce training over a two-year period. Grants are awarded to projects that will upgrade workers skills, increase the productivity and competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses, and create jobs. Grants are matched dollar-for-dollar by the recipients.

Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM and Chair of the Workforce Training Fund Program Advisory Board, said developing highly trained employees is essential to succeeding in the competitive Massachusetts economy.

“Employers across the commonwealth place a high value on having a highly skilled workforce,” Lord said. “I am pleased to see more businesses taking advantage of the Workforce Training Fund, which is an important tool for making Massachusetts businesses more competitive by investing in the skills of their workers.”

AIM members receiving grants were:

  • RH White Companies, Inc., Auburn, was awarded $118,730 to train 188 workers; 20 additional jobs anticipated by 2017.
  • Legal Sea Foods LLC, Boston, was awarded $163,200 to train 28 workers; six additional jobs are anticipated by 2017.
  • AliMed, Inc., Dedham, was awarded $133,610 to train 202 workers; six additional jobs are anticipated by 2017.
  • Westside Finishing Company, Inc., Holyoke, was awarded $112,801 to train 45 workers; two additional jobs are anticipated by 2017.
  • RPP Corporation, Lawrence, was awarded $96,200 to train 100 workers; eight additional jobs are anticipated by 2017.
  • MACOM, Lowell, was awarded $247,200 to train 205 workers; eight additional jobs are anticipated expect by 2017.
  • Trip Advisor Holdings LLC, Needham, was awarded $230,000 to train 450 workers; 44 additional jobs are anticipated by 2017.
  • Palmer Foundry, Palmer, was awarded $96,512 to train 58 workers; six additional jobs are expected by 2017.
  • Atrenne Computing Solutions, Randolph, was awarded $96,260 to train 134 workers; four additional jobs are expected by 2017.
  • Solar Seal, South Easton, was awarded $86,670 to train 106 workers; four additional jobs are expected by 2017.
  • Artisan Industries, Inc., Stoughton, was awarded $224,400 to train 74 workers; five additional jobs are expected by 2017.
  • Mestek, Inc., Westfield,  was awarded $103,709 to train 30 workers; two additional jobs are expected by 2017.
  • Westfield Electroplating Company, Inc., Westfield, was awarded $82,000 to train 58 workers; two additional jobs are expected by 2017.
  • Lytron, Inc., Woburn, was awarded $247,540 to train 120 workers; three additional jobs are expected by 2017.
  • Peterson Party Center, Woburn, was awarded $219,590 to train 259 workers; 20 additional jobs are expected by 2017.

 

Topics: Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Workforce Training

Workforce Training Fund Streamlines Grant Process

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 24, 2013 7:49:00 AM

The Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) today announced four policy changes that will streamline the grant process and make thousands of additional employers eligible for the Express Grant program.

Workforce Training FundWTFP officials said the fund’s advisory board voted recently to cut in half the two-year waiting period for companies that receive a grant and wish to apply for a subsequent award. The board also made companies with between 50-100 employees eligible for Express Grants; eliminated the waiting period between General Program grants and Express Program grants; and increased the allowable grant period for Technical Assistance grants from six months to 12 months.

Express Grants allow small employers to quickly and simply provide training for employees by using existing training courses where a pricing structure already exists.

“The changes acknowledge the fact that training is an ongoing process that employers maintain over many years in an effort to become efficient and competitive,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM and Chair of the WTFP Advisory Board.

“Our hope is that more employers will now come forward to seek training money, even if they have received grants in the past.

WTFP, the commonwealth’s flagship workforce training initiative, has provided $202 million to train approximately 290,000 Massachusetts workers at more than 3,700 companies since 2007. The program allows employers to apply for grants of up to $25,000 for technical assistance programs, or up to $250,000 for full training programs. Training programs may last up to two years.

The reduced waiting period between applications for general workforce training grants is effective for all companies that have previously won grants. The waiting period commences when grant final paperwork has been completed and approved by staff.

Grant awards will take into account:

  • The role of Workforce Training Funds as money intended to supplement, not supplant, private investment in training;
  • Performance on previous WTFP grants, including, but not limited to, training program completion, achievement of expected results, and grantee compliance;
  • Duplication of training efforts previously funded through the Workforce Training Fund.


Employers fund the WTFP through a surcharge on their Unemployment Insurance tax payments. Companies are permitted to use grants from the fund to train workers in areas such as basic skills, English as a second language, supervisory/management skills, customer service and lean manufacturing.

Lord said expansion of the Express Grant program will allow thousands of employers to access training money for the first time through an expedited process. Applications for Express Grants are accepted on a rolling basis.

“The changes simplify the grant application process for a wide swath of companies that make up the core of the Massachusetts economy. The objective is to get money into the hands of employers to improve the skills of workers and make their enterprises globally competitive,” Lord said.

AIM has helped scores for companies develop successful Workforce Training Fund grant applications. Please contact Bill Baldino (bbaldino@aimnet.org) for more information.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Training

Twenty AIM Member Companies Win Workforce Training Grants

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 3, 2013 4:57:00 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts congratulates 20 member employers who won Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) grants from the commonwealth today.

Workforce TrainingThe AIM-member employers were among 87 companies and training organizations that will share in more than $6.8 million to improve the skills of existing and newly hired employees. WTFP, the commonwealth’s flagship workforce training initiative, has provided $68.66 million to train approximately 90,000 Massachusetts workers at more than 2,750 companies since 2007.

"We are focused on addressing the skills gap issue in the commonwealth so that workers can compete in today’s ever-changing jobs market,” said Governor Deval Patrick. "The Workforce Training Fund focuses on the needs of both our businesses and workers, as Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in economic recovery.”

Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM and Chair of the Workforce Training Fund Program Advisory Board, said employers have become more comfortable with the program since the Legislature and governor removed it from annual budget debates by placing it into a trust during Fiscal Year 2012.

“It’s great to see the Workforce Training Fund programs back in full operation, with assured funding,” Lord said. “Employers of all sizes across the state are seeking improved productivity, and these grant programs are proven resources for advancing workforce skills.”

WTFP allows employers to apply for grants of up to $25,000 for technical assistance programs, or up to $250,000 for full training programs. Training programs may last up to two years.

The grant winners announced today are located in 66 cities and towns across the commonwealth and will provide training to employees in a range of sectors, including financial services, manufacturing, engineering and hospitality.  AIM members receiving grants were:

  • Imperial Distributions Inc., Auburn, $183,000 awarded, 125 employees to be trained, 12 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • The Phia Group LLC, Braintree, $152,813 awarded, 79 employees to be trained, 10 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • NYPRO, Inc., Clinton, $150,060 awarded, 134 employees to be trained, 18 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Nye Lubricants Inc, Fairhaven, $145,200 awarded, 128 employees to be trained, 8 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Accutech Packaging, Inc., Foxboro, $102,220 awarded, 42 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Iredale Mineral Cosmetics Ltd., Great Barrington, $228,400 awarded, 79 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Vacuum Technology Associates, Inc., Hingham, $48,760 awarded, 72 employees to be trained, 10 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • James J. Dowd and Sons Insurance Agency, Inc, Holyoke, $49,980 awarded, 41 employees to be trained, no additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Boyd Coatings Research, Hudson, $128,850 awarded, 90 employees to be trained, 3 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Fourstar Connections Inc., Hudson, $71,930 awarded, 21 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • National Lumber, Mansfield, $79,250 awarded, 79 employees to be trained, 6 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Bixby International Corporation, Newburyport, $86,400 awarded, 56 employees to be trained, 4 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Fabrico, Oxford, $182,400 awarded, 177 employees to be trained, 20 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Randolph Engineering, Randolph, $32,640 awarded, 48 employees to be trained, 3 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Ionsense, Inc., Saugus, $16,800 awarded, 8 employees to be trained, 3 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Ranor, Inc., Westminster, $73,692 awarded, 140 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Janis Research Company, Inc., Wilmington, $131,470 awarded, 77 employees to be trained, 1 additional job is expected to be created as a result of training.
  • United Tool & Die Company, Inc., Wilmington, $48,290 awarded, 16 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, LLC, Wilmington, $63,225 awarded, 33 employees to be trained, 5 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.
  • Curtis Industries, Worcester, $103,350 awarded, 82 employees to be trained, 8 additional jobs are expected to be created as a result of training.

Topics: Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Human Resources, Training

Kayem Cooks Up Tasty Future by Training Work Force

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 12, 2012 3:46:00 PM

Kayem Foods has cooked up a 102-year history every bit as iconic as the ballpark franks it makes for the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots.

Kayem.smallBut President and Chief Executive Officer Ralph O. Smith knows that the company’s future rests with creative and well-trained employees.

 “As customer requirements become more complex, organizations rely on employee innovation to meet or exceed expectations. We are committed to investing in our team’s growth,” says Smith, whose company used part of a $114,000 state Workforce Training Fund Program grant to create in partnership with AIM a leadership development course for employees.

Massachusetts Labor Secretary Joanne F. Goldstein visited the Kayem plant in Chelsea yesterday to recognize company executives and employees on the success of the training effort. She said the collaboration between Kayem and AIM underscores the value of the Workforce Training Fund in helping companies to maintain good-paying jobs in Massachusetts.

Kayem, a marketer and manufacturer of meats under multiple brand names since 1909, worked with AIM to tailor a 10-class employee-development curriculum consistent with the company’s objective to create “leaders instead of managers.” Fifty participants from across the company have so far learned how to manage change, appraise performance, build relationships, and identify and overcome problems.

Company representatives say leadership development is critical as Kayem invests heavily in complex new machinery and pursues stringent international food safety certifications. The grant will ultimately fund training for more than 400 employees.

“The collaboration between Kayem and AIM is an excellent example of the partnership we encourage via the Workforce Training Fund,” said Goldstein. “We are very excited to see so many workers benefit from this innovative training plan. It reminds us that the Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to keeping high-quality jobs in Massachusetts.”

Kayem also used the Workforce Training Fund to develop training in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in collaboration with Bunker Hill Community College. Team leaders and workers learned how to read production guides that they must use on the job. The ESOL training was unique in that it improved English proficiency and provided lessons in essential workplace terminology.

Richard C. Lord, President of AIM and Chair of the Workforce Training Fund Advisory Board, said Massachusetts employers should give the commonwealth’s flagship worker training program a second look now that lawmakers have placed the fund into a trust and removed it from the uncertainty of annual budgetary debates.

“Successful companies like Kayem Foods understand that skilled employees are the key to improving efficiency and productivity in the global economy. Employers capitalize the Workforce Training Fund through a surcharge on Unemployment Insurance taxes, so it makes sense for those same employers to use those funds to improve their businesses,” Lord said.

The Workforce Training Fund has provided $68.66 million to train approximately 90,000 Massachusetts workers at more than 2,750 companies since 2007. The program provides resources to Massachusetts businesses to train current and newly hired employees. Employers may apply for grants of up to $25,000 for technical assistance programs, or they may apply for grants of up to $250,000 for full training programs. Training programs may last up to two years.

Potential applicants may contact Bill Baldino at AIM (617.262.1180; bbaldino@aimnet.org) for additional information and requirements.

 

Topics: Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Human Resources

Revamped Workforce Training Fund Seeks to be Responsive to Employers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Dec 16, 2011 11:55:00 AM

The Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) has emerged from a period of financial uncertainty with a new structure that officials believe will eliminate the complexity that has at times frustrated employers looking to train employees.

Massachusetts Workforce TrainingThe commonwealth’s flagship program for training workers is fully funded at $21 million and now rests in a trust that should insulate the program from annual Beacon Hill budget battles. A supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Deval Patrick in October will ensure that companies that were awarded grants and were awaiting funds before the creation of the trust will receive the money to begin their training initiatives.

WTFP has provided $193.2 million in grants since its inception to some 2,500 Massachusetts employers to train 277,351 workers. In 2011, the fund provided grants worth $11.4 million to 138 Massachusetts companies that will use the money to train 13,000 workers and create 1,700 jobs.

Employers fund the WTFP through a surcharge on their unemployment insurance tax payments. Companies are permitted to use grants from the fund to train workers in areas such as basic skills, English as a second language, supervisory/management skills, customer service and lean manufacturing.

The new trust fund structure will permit collection and disbursement of funds as needed by businesses, rather than on a government appropriation cycle.

“To start, the grants are available on a rolling basis,” said Nancy Snyder, President and CEO of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development's Commonwealth Corporation.

"Businesses can apply when they are ready rather than in accordance with an application deadline. We also revised forms and policies to make it easy for small businesses to jointly apply for a grant.”

Richard C. Lord, President of AIM and Chair of the Workforce Training Fund Advisory Council, emphasized that the committee will now award grants on a monthly basis rather than on the previous schedule of three times a year.

“The objective is to improve the efficiency of getting training funds into the hands of employers who will use them to raise the skills of Massachusetts workers,” Lord said.

Bill Baldino of the AIM Employer’s Resource Group, who has helped scores of employers win training grants, said the economic chaos of the past four years has magnified the need for Massachusetts companies to train their workers.

“The global economy is becoming more competitive, not less,” Baldino said.

“The most successful companies in Massachusetts understand that an efficient, innovative and well-trained work force is essential to their future.”

AIM members interested in applying for a Workforce Training Grant may contact Baldino (bbaldino@aimnet.org) for assistance or additional information.

Topics: Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Training

Worker Training System Must Help Employers Find Skilled People

Posted by Andre Mayer on Oct 28, 2011 8:35:00 AM

“I can’t find the skilled people I need to make my business grow.”

Workforce TrainingIt’s one of the most common observations we hear at AIM from Massachusetts employers, even during a slow economy. Now, the person in charge of workforce training for Massachusetts is asking for your ideas to solve the problem.

On Thursday, November 3, Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne F. Goldstein will conduct a morning-long 21st Century Workforce Development System “visioning” session in Burlington. The event will focus on the needs of employers, to “provide an opportunity for company representatives to share their perspectives on the most effective ways to recruit, train, and retain a 21st century workforce.”

Where to begin the search for solutions? Start with what works best – the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP). The initiative has been a success for employers and workers alike. Its flexibility has allowed it to respond to changing needs in the economy, and to evolve structurally to broaden participation (for example by accommodating small employers) and to meet pressing concerns.

The success of the WFTP owes much to the fact that it is funded by employers, and requires a direct employer match for each grant. Substantial employer skin in the game justifies the flexibility and responsiveness to specific needs required in a diverse, fast-changing economy.

Many other programs, by contrast, are narrowly categorical in terms of eligibility, and involve complex application processes. Now that a true WTFP trust fund is in place, ensuring stable funding, the program will be even more effective.

The WFTP falls under the broader heading of “middle skills,” defined as education and training beyond the high school level but short of a baccalaureate college degree. AIM’s 6,000 members employ one in five of the state’s private-sector workers, a large proportion of them in the middle-skills category.

We hear from employers constantly that development of these skills must be a priority, and that our workforce development system must be re-tuned to meet current needs and opportunities. The system must also become more readily navigable both for individuals seeking skills and for employers seeking to hire. The middle-skills agenda currently being advanced by the Skills2Compete-Massachusetts coalition is a vital contribution – especially as our state, a leader in elementary, secondary and higher education, has too often ignored this critical middle ground.

The “Great Recession” has created an immediate crisis of workplace skills. Youth employment has been devastated, leaving many young people unable to gain a basic understanding of the world of work through low-level jobs. Older people have experienced long-term unemployment that has eroded the currency of their skills. Even experienced workers may be left behind when industry patterns shift or employers retool.

Meanwhile, the recession and subsequent sluggish recovery are limiting government’s ability to address the workplace skills crisis. Federal funding streams have historically not only supported much workforce development activity, but also shaped the institutional structure through which programs are delivered. The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 created the regional Workforce Investment Boards as they now exist. That law, which expired in 2003 but has been extended annually, is now enmeshed in the broader deadlock over federal spending. Reauthorization at this point is in considerable doubt.

We face both an immediate and long-term need to change the way we approach worker training. Without improved training now, employers will not find the employees they will soon require, working lives will be blighted and Massachusetts risks losing a key competitive advantage - a highly-skilled workforce. Here, for the time being, we must use as effectively as possible the resources and structures we have, notably the Workforce Training Fund.

On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the time has come to recast our state’s workforce development system to respond to the emerging needs and resource constraints of the 21st century. Important work is being done on aspects of a new system – reconsideration of the role of the community colleges, for example – but we must end up with a coherent system that can be understood and used by jobseekers and employers (especially small employers) alike.

AIM strongly believes that workforce development must be addressed in the context of a comprehensive economic development strategy for the commonwealth. We have long advocated such planning as a key component of our Agenda for the Common Wealth flagship advocacy program, and we are very pleased that the challenge has been taken up by Governor Patrick’s Economic Development Council. As a statutory participant in that effort, we are committed to placing the highest priority on workforce development programs that effectively meet the needs of our state’s employers and fulfill the potential of our state’s residents.

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Topics: Issues, Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Workforce Training

Supplemental Budget Will Free Money to Train Workers

Posted by John Regan on Oct 5, 2011 5:59:00 PM

The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a supplemental budget today that will free up millions of dollars in desperately needed workforce training funds currently tangled in an accounting transition.

Massachusetts state budgetThe $460 million budget measure will allow state officials to move money earmarked earlier this year for the Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) into a new trust fund created when Governor Deval Patrick signed the Fiscal Year 2012 budget in July. Officials cannot currently apply money that was in the fund prior to the creation of the trust, meaning that companies awarded grants in July have been waiting to receive their money.

“AIM strongly supports moving the Workforce Training Fund Program to a trust as a means of insulating the program from the uncertainties of the annual budget process. Moving money from the former structure to the new trust is really just an accounting issue,” said Richard C. Lord, President of AIM and Chair of the Workforce Training Fund Advisory Committee.

The measure also contains a provision requiring the commonwealth to post regulatory cost-benefit studies online, a move that AIM believes will foster  meaningful debate about the costs and potential consequences of rules that may harm the Massachusetts economy.

The Legislature passed a cost-benefit study requirement in 2010, but the current law provides that only a summary of the analysis be posted online.  The full text is available at the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.

The cost-benefit reviews must include the following information about any new rule:

  • an estimate of the number of small businesses subject to the proposed regulation;
  • projected reporting, recordkeeping and other administrative costs required for compliance with the proposed regulation;
  • the appropriateness of performance standards versus design standards;
  • an identification of regulations of the promulgating agency, or of another agency or department of the commonwealth, which may duplicate or conflict with the proposed regulation; and
  • an analysis of whether the proposed regulation is likely to deter or encourage the formation of new businesses in the commonwealth.

The supplemental budget proposes to spend $154 million and deposit $350 million into the state's rainy day fund. The bill addresses recent budget cut by investing in clothing allowances for children in need, nursing home residents, developmentally disabled individuals, adult education, the trial courts, an expansion of a housing tax credit, and disaster assistance.

 

Topics: Massachusetts state budget, Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund

Senate Budget Includes Municipal Health Reform, No Tax Increases

Posted by John Regan on May 18, 2011 1:51:00 PM

The Massachusetts Senate unveiled a proposed Fiscal Year 2012 state budget this morning that includes no tax increases; moves the Workforce Training Fund into a trust; and makes modest changes to a House of Representatives plan to give cities and towns the authority to manage their health insurance costs.

Senate budgetThe $30.3 billion spending blueprint seeks to close an estimated $1.9 billion budget deficit through $1.5 billion in spending reductions - including a $65 million reduction in aid to cities and towns – coupled with $440 million in one-time revenues. The document eliminates 277 budget items and level-funds 221 others.

Amendments to the budget were due on Friday and AIM continues to review them. The association will communicate with members this week about any major issues contained in the amendments.

“As difficult as the recent budgets have been, the fiscal year 2012 budget presents a new set of challenges,” said Senator Steven M. Brewer, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“The absence of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds and growth in non-discretionary costs leave us with a budget gap of $1.9 billion. Once again, we will utilize a balanced approach to address this shortfall, but deep cuts to services and programs cannot be avoided. We must continue to do more with less.”

Broad agreement between the Senate budget proposal and the House blueprint approved two weeks ago virtually assures that the commonwealth will navigate its fourth year of fiscal crisis without a tax increase. The agreement on creating a trust for the state’s flagship worker training program also signals that lawmakers agree with AIM and employers that the program should be removed from the uncertainty of annual budget deliberations.

“Placing the Workforce Training Fund into a trust will create the kind of predictability that employers need to improve the skills of Massachusetts workers. We are gratified that the Senate included this provision in its budget proposal,” said Richard C. Lord, President of AIM and chair of the WTF Advisory Board.

The Senate plan for municipal health reform differs from the House version, which would allow municipal officials to set health-insurance co-pays and deductibles unilaterally after a 30-day negotiating period. The Senate proposes that if managers and employees cannot negotiate an agreement during that window, the health plan changes would be handed over to a three-person review panel made up of one labor representative, one management representative and a third mutually selected person from a list provided by the Secretary of Administration and Finance of professionals with expertise in dispute resolution, municipal finance, or municipal health insurance.

The review board would be required to approve any health insurance plan changes proposed by management that do not exceed the benefits received by state employees.

The Senate plan would also require more of any premium savings generated by health plan changes to go to municipal workers – one-third of savings in the first year versus 20 percent under unilaterally imposed changes in the House bill.

Both versions would leave cities and towns to continue negotiating with unions over the percentage of premiums paid by employees. They would also force all eligible retirees to enroll in Medicare.

Lawmakers estimate that both reform plans would save approximately $100 million per year.

AIM and Massachusetts employers generally support municipal health reform because the spiraling cost of health insurance is eroding the ability of city and town governments to deliver educational, public safety and other services upon which the economy depends. A recent report by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education found that virtually all of the increased state funding for schools during the past decade has been diverted from classrooms to pay for soaring health benefits.

Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns spent $3.297 billion more on health insurance from 2001 to 2010 than they would have spent had they purchased coverage through the Group Insurance Commission, which buys insurance for state employees. The Commission limited annual premium increases to a modest 6.4 percent during that time because it is able to make plan design changes outside of collective bargaining.

The Senate budget does not include a provision of the House plan that would limit the onerous 2008 treble damages law to willful violations of the state wage and hour statute. AIM looks forward to continued discussions with the Legislature on modifying treble damages.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Municipal Reform, Budget, Massachusetts senate, Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund

Governor Seeks Full Funding for State Workforce Training Program

Posted by Rick Lord on Jan 26, 2011 3:07:00 PM

Governor Deval Patrick today proposed to fully fund the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP) at $21 million for Fiscal Year 2012 while shifting the program into a trust fund that would remove it from future budget deliberations.

Workforce Training FundWTFP is the primary program through which Massachusetts funds initiatives to train and educate workers. It has provided $193.2 million in grants since its inception to some 2,500 Massachusetts employers to train 277,351 workers.

The governor’s budget comes as welcome news to workers and employers alike after three consecutive years in which the WTFP has operated with less than full funding. The program has approximately $19 million available this fiscal year after being cut in half during Fiscal Years 2010 and 2009.

A full appropriation of $21 million is important because Massachusetts employers pay for the program though a surcharge on Unemployment Insurance bills. Using less than $21 million to help employers train new or incumbent workers amounts to an unnecessary diversion of that money.

As president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts and Chair of the state's Workforce Training Fund Advisory Council, I commend Governor Patrick for his commitment to the type of training that will lead the commonwealth out of the worst recession in 50 years.  One of the greatest challenges facing Massachusetts is the gap between the skills our workers have and the skills they need to succeed in the global economy.

We agree with President Obama’s comments during the State of the Union address that education and training will play a key role in maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

WTFP is currently accepting applications for its next round of funding from employers seeking to train new or incumbent workers. It’s a great opportunity for companies to secure some financial support for training initiatives to boost employee productivity and improve skill levels.  Contact Bill Baldino here at AIM (617.899.4951, bbaldino@aimnet.org) for more information.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund, Deval Patrick

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