State grant will allow for free, low-cost workforce training
What’s more, funding for the program, which trains employees to upgrade their job skills, could keep flowing for years to come, officials said.
“We’re really excited,” said Holly Correa, director of grants for the college district. “This is a great way to up-level the skills of workers in our county, provide a service to the business community and help the district’s workforce development program continue to grow. It’s a win-win-win.”
In an initial round of funding that could increase year to year, the college district’s economic development division received the $88,750 grant last week from the state Employment Training Panel, or ETP, to train 35 employees in the manufacturing sector.
They’ll learn equipment operation and production skills, workplace communication (including upgrading their English skills), software applications, database management and report generation, according to a Feb. 24 news release from the ETP.
Normally, companies that can afford the cost pay the district for such training, although the ETP offers grants to businesses that meet certain qualifications, Correa said.
“We’ve never had ETP funding before for the community college district. This is the first time ever,” she said. “Contract education has been going on, but it costs businesses money. This ETP funding offsets the cost so it’s low to no cost for businesses.”
The state panel announced Feb. 24 it awarded 35 contracts to community college districts, amounting to about $13.8 million, to train 14,541 workers statewide.
Working through contracts with community college districts around the state, the panel “helps workers upgrade their skills and increase their value to key industries,” the ETP website said.
ETP’s grant is repeatable; once the initial funds are exhausted, the local college district can apply for a second round of funding of up to $500,000 by as early as this summer, Correa said.
“Once they fund your program, they fund you again, with the goal of increasing the outcomes,” she said.
To ensure the program is working, district officials will pay follow-up visits to companies within 90 days of the training to check whether the employees are still on the job. Officials will use that job-retention data to apply for continued ETP funding, Correa said.
But before any training is provided, business counselors from the district meet with company owners to design a program that fits their needs. College faculty train the workers at the companies’ work sites or at the district’s three campuses in Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura.
“It’s designed to be a customized grant,” Correa said. “For example, one of our manufacturers might need employees trained in (Microsoft) Excel, or their workers might need to raise their math and English skills. Some employers need upper-level management skills.
“We go to the business, interview the business about their needs and then we come up with a customized delivery system.”
The district’s economic development division is creating a marketing plan to spread the word about the program to local manufacturing companies, Correa said. Officials plan to reach out to local chambers of commerce and other business groups. As of Monday, she said, three companies had applied for the training.
Rick Post, vice chancellor of educational services, said the ETP grant will put the district’s job training within reach of smaller companies.
“By becoming an ETP training provider, our district’s office of economic and workforce development will be able to expand its contract training services to new and existing businesses that would otherwise be unable to afford customized worker training,” Post said in the Feb. 24 news release.
Although the current grant is focused on manufacturing jobs, officials plan to expand the training to any business interested in giving employees additional job skills, Correa said.
“The sky is the limit,” she said. “The idea is to work together with the community to leverage our resources to benefit as many employers and workers as possible.”