The Idaho Department of Labor is trying out new workforce training grants that would offer subsidies to create training programs for entire industries, not just offer rewards for single companies.
Up to three $1 million grants are available in the initial run of the new grant, which is being called the Industry Sector grant, according to the Department of Labor’s request for proposals detailing the program’s parameters. Educational institutions must apply for the grants, but they need to have partnerships with at least three companies within an industry – or at least three companies that have similar training needs across industries – to be eligible.
Further, the private-sector businesses are required to put up at least 25 percent in matching funds for the grant, according to the RFP.
Jenny Hemly, Idaho Department of Labor workforce training fund contract manager, said the new approach is meant to establish training across a broad sector of employers rather than single-company reimbursements.
The department has offered workforce training grants as reimbursements to single companies that have hired new workers and meet other criteria, such as having average wages of more than $12 an hour.
Hemly said the department is hoping for better outcomes with the new grants, including increasing the number of people hired in the sector, increasing the promotion of existing employees and speeding up hiring when vacancies occur. The grants are also a good way to get industries and educational facilities speaking together about what industries need in the labor force, she said.
The grants are being paid for with the workforce training fund, meaning there will be less funding available for the traditional training grants offered to single companies. The department will continue to offer the traditional training subsidies, however, Hemly said.
Jon Anson, Idaho Firearms and Accessories Manufacturing Association president, said the new grant could help any kind of manufacturing industry.
“One of the problems we have is getting the trained workforce here in Idaho, and this is an excellent way of getting the funding available to finish the training necessary to meet industry needs,” Anson said.
Many firearm and firearm accessory makers in Idaho are starting to see the pool of qualified laborers diminish as the industry expands, he said. The industry would benefit from education programs offering programs to train skilled workers, such as machinists, who could help manufacture ammunition.
Only public secondary education institutions are eligible for the grants, putting community colleges like College of Western Idaho, College of Southern Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College on the spot to develop a grant proposal.
Jennifer Couch, spokeswoman for CWI, said the college was still reviewing the new grant format and did not have a specific plan for applying. Still, the school is interested, she said.
“The college is currently reviewing the details of the grant requirements and is interested in hearing from local businesses with specific occupational needs,” CWI President Bert Glandon said in a statement.
According to the RFP, several weighted categories could give applicants a leg up in the judging process. Those include extra points when more workers are hired after training, extra points for each $1 above the average wage of $12 required for eligibility, and extra points for any certification or academic credit that the training program allows for.
Schools have until Sept. 6 to put together a grant application.