At Maybury Material Handling, we have always put an emphasis on our training programs. However, as most business owners know, material handling education doesn’t come cheap. That is why several years ago our company set out to find a way to manage those costs without sacrificing the quality training our employees needed to continue to grow.
We found our solution through the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The company applied for and received two separate Workforce Training Fund grants, totaling around $175,000. These grants, which are actually funded by Massachusetts businesses through their unemployment tax dollars, are given to select companies that outline a clear plan for comprehensive, sustainable training.
Several steps must be taken before applying. First, you need a plan of action. Strong grant applications have several key components, including the following:
- The proposal should validate your organization’s need for the training program.
- It must show that, in the future, the company will be able to maintain the learning made possible by the grant.
- The request should clearly articulate how the company will retain the people it educates.
- It should be evident that the training program will be used to educate employees at all levels of the company, not just the senior management.
- You should be prepared to outline the specific details of the training.
This application process may seem daunting, but you don’t necessarily need to hire a grant writer. At Maybury, we completed our own application. However, we did receive coaching beforehand and would recommend that anyone seeking a grant get outside help as well. Some states have government-funded agencies that can provide guidance in grant writing.
Some Strings Attached
As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” To an extent, that is also true with workforce development grants. One of the requirements for securing a grant is that a company agree to match the grant with either a dollar-for-dollar or an in-kind contribution. So if you get a $60,000 grant to use for training extended over a 24-month period, your company must also invest $60,000 in the training. This can be in the form of salaries paid to employees while they participate in training, fees for the use of your own facility in the training or a monetary match.
Once the grant is approved, there is extensive follow-up required over the training period, which can extend over 24 months. Every six months, the company is required to submit a report detailing what training was done, who participated and what the matching dollar amount was. Additionally, some participants are required to complete a survey rating the program’s effectiveness.
That said, it is a small price to pay for the benefit the grants provide. Maybury has been able to bring a wide range of training, including technical and soft skills training, sales and customer service training, concepts of continuous improvement, strategic planning and leadership development. This investment in our greatest resource, our people, has contributed to our culture of continuous improvement where each associate can reach his/her full potential with Maybury.
Our experience with the Workforce Training Fund grants is specific to Massachusetts, but many states have similar programs. I suggest checking out local Chambers of Commerce and your state’s Division of Training, Workforce Development or Unemployment. In times like these, we can’t afford to leave any stone unturned.
|Meet the Author
Lori Cooney is human resources manager at Maybury Material Handling, located in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and on the Web at www.maybury.com.