US calibration labs have challenges like any other small to medium sized business, including employing a skilled and well-trained workforce. In a tight economy, there still exist some resources to assist business with training. Motivated management and/or employees can get involved in finding assistance to help fund their own training. Some resources can even overlap in what they provide to help source quality improvement measures and improve their overall working environment and company productivity. Given effort and opportunity, businesses can benefit from the information that is out there.
Federal and State Resources
NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)
MEP partners up with organizations at the federal, state, and local levels to help address a number of issues for clients such as quality, sourcing, and innovation.
Example: Through New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership, MEP was able to help facilitate a manufacturer of ice and snow removal equipment to commission an affiliate to conduct Lean Principles Training, Value Stream Mapping Training & Implementation, Lean Leadership program, & Lean White Belt Training. Ultimately, capitol investments by this company sped up their production and sales grew, leading to new hires. Another effect of company-wide training led to improved employee engagement in the flow of ideas and improvement initiatives coming from the shop floor.
MEP has 440 field locations throughout the US & Puerto Rico. To learn more about NIST MEP and find a local MEP office, visit the website: www.nist/gov/mep/.
Grants.gov lists federal funding opportunities across all the different government agencies—mainly for research. As an example, metrology industry related opportunities recently solicited by NIST, under the Department of Commerce, is the Measurement Science and Engineering (MSE) Research Grant and Precision Measurement Grant Program (PMGP).
Conducting searches through such a broad government tool can also lead to other discoveries (non-solicitations) you might not expect, such as the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowships.
Registered Apprenticeship Program
The National Apprenticeship Act (Fitzgerald Act) was enacted in 1937. Facilitated by the DOL, employers can register to become part of this program. In return, they are eligible for grants and assistance in finding and training new or existing employees. “Calibration Laboratory Technician” is included as an available occupation.
In the past, businesses with a large enough work force often coordinated with the unions in order to provide on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs. But, coordination with an industry union is NOT required; therefore, business should not be turned off by an apprenticeship program.
Besides federal government job training and worker dislocation programs, the DOL Employment and Training Administration (ETA) administer federal grants to the state and local level through workforce development systems. Factoid: To address unemployment, the US Department of Labor (DOL) announced $169,771,960 in grants as part of the Ready to Work initiative, back in October 2014.
From DOLETA.gov, you can find a number of other federal websites geared towards connecting the unemployed with training opportunities—though there are some links that provide resources for businesses as well:
- Americanjobcenter is a hub for finding government resources available to students, job seekers, veterans, and business.
- Veterans Employment Center™ helps connect veterans seeking employment with employers.
- Careeronestop.org provides information on State and Federal Grants, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, On the Job Training (OJT), and Workforce Development Boards (WDB).
- Workforce3 One is yet another website for finding resources for “Workforce System Success.” Head spinning yet? Mine is. But from here you can find an online grant application toolkit.
Working with Schools
Though community colleges are increasingly dropping their metrology programs, they are a critical player in retaining a “middle-skills” workforce. Community Colleges, Public Vocational Schools, and State Colleges and Universities often work with businesses. The relationship is mutually beneficial and regularly implemented in countries all over the globe. In fact, states encourage this kind of collaboration through economic/workforce development grants. State funded programs for retraining vary from state to state. It’s in their best interest to help support industry; just as states need tax revenue, business needs to sustain a well-trained workforce to remain competitive.
Some examples of how industry can work with community colleges:
- Companies registered with the federal apprenticeship program can send their employees to participating community colleges and have the tuition covered in whole or part.
- Companies can work with community colleges and vocational schools to tailor curriculum for a company’s specific training needs.
Businesses can take advantage of funding and/or other resources if they do their homework. In a nutshell, the US government funds initiatives for employment and training programs that are implemented at the state and local level. Some of this is in the form of grants—particularly for research—but mostly it’s about networking and providing the public with information.
Thanks to Paul Hanssen of WorkPlace Training, for the idea to write this article.
The Benefits of a Sustaining a Well-Trained Workforce
For the sake of keeping this article focused and brief, I’ve left out extolling the virtues of providing continuing education to employees and how companies can benefit from the results—there’s plenty of reading material out there for anyone interested:
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