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.
The 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance or additional information.