Friday Sep 02 2011
Employers get a break on hiring, training costs
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
Golden Sierra Workforce Investment Board has provided funding to employers for on-the-job training since passage of the Recovery Act of 2009. But a recent change boosts that funding even more. “What is new is the ability to reimburse up to 90 percent,” Golden Sierra director Jason Buckingham said this week. “We just received notice of a waiver extension (for the funding).” The initial program reimbursed employers up to 50 percent of training costs. The funding covers the training period for a new employee. “Normally (employers would) incur that cost on their own,” he said. “Now we can reimburse a certain percentage.” Businesses with 50 employees or fewer are eligible for the full 90 percent reimbursement for training. For larger businesses, it drops to 75 percent and then to 50 percent. “In this area, where we are predominately small businesses, virtually everyone is eligible for the 90 percent,” Buckingham said. There’s some flexibility in the amount of training to be funded. “We judge the training period based on job description,” he said. “The more complex the task, the longer the training will be.” There’s an added focus on training because as the unemployment rate has gone up, the agency is seeing a different type of job seeker. “Generally our funding is focused on vocational training,” Buckingham said. “(But these days), we’re seeing people with a good work history, good transferable skills and higher earnings.” The program’s benefits extend beyond the employer, he said. “We’re assisting employer, assisting the hiree and those wages get spent in the community,” he said. Golden Sierra employee Melody Lint implements the program, meeting with businesses, sitting down with them to write a plan and determining the needed skills and the training period. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible,” Buckingham said. “We go through an employer checklist and then enter into a contract that involves a training program. It takes some thought and there’s some paperwork. We’re trying to make that paperwork as easy as possible and walk them through it.” The 90 percent funding program will be in place through at least next June in Golden Sierra’s region, which includes Placer, El Dorado and Alpine counties. “Our big push is in Placer County,” Buckingham said. Countis Laboratories in Grass Valley, which makes ceramic materials for microwave communications, is a recently signed-on participant. “Actually, our new employee had information on it,” spokeswoman Michelle Countis said. “She had gone to several seminars on job retraining and found out about it there. When we hired her, she went ahead and downloaded the information for us and had more information sent to us.” With Lint’s assistance, the company got all the necessary formats. “Now we’re implementing the program and we’ll be reimbursed for 90 percent of her wages for the past month,” Countis said. It’s something Countis will consider again when hiring new employees, “because we know there are lots of people out there looking for jobs,” she said. “(It would be worthwhile) if they have some of the basic skills and are trainable. The basic part is attitude and a good work ethic. Then the training goes with it.” Buckingham and his staff are working on rolling out some other new initiatives as well. “We have a work experience program that would be comparable to a paid internship,” he explained. “We’re developing what we call a ‘try before you buy’ scenario where essentially we’d reimburse wages for a 30-day period for an employee so an employer could determine if that employee is a good fit.” The funding is wages only, and doesn’t include payment for benefits, he clarified. He’s also developing a “full blown” human resources recruiting capability, including background checks and screening. “(Employers) would do the final interview process,” he said “But we would do all the filtering process and just hand them a list of what we believe to be qualified applicants.” It’s a service that he sees a need for. “We realize that most of the businesses (locally) are small — employers of 10 or less and many home-based,” he said. “They don’t have the ability to go out and do that recruiting. So we are trying to fill that niche for them.” That program likely will be up and running within the next 30 to 60 days, he said. Reach Gloria Young at email@example.com. ----------------------- To learn more: For more information see goldensierrawib.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Melody Lint at (916) 746-7722, ext. 109.