Workforce Development To Get The Job Done

Workforce Development To Get The Job Done

Access to a quality workforce is a top priority for companies considering where to relocate or expand. Here’s a look at what some top locations across the U.S. are doing to address today’s workforce.

By Carol Radice
From the May/June 2022 Issue

Workforce issues are nothing new. The struggle to attract and retain employees is as old as companies themselves. However, as anyone who owns a business can attest, the magnitude of today’s workforce challenges is unprecedented. So many companies are grappling to find the right workers, but many come up short. It wasn’t that long ago that companies relied on the help wanted section in the newspaper to post job notices, and job seekers used that same tool to find open positions. It was also during that same time professional development was viewed as a one-size-fits all approach that often boiled down to sending employees through a standardized training program once a year.

Fortunately, the approach to attracting, retaining, and training employees has evolved, and today the subject is considered as one of, if not the most important aspects of operating a successful company. It could be because studies show that people who are the most satisfied at their jobs have a few things in common—namely they all say they were given the tools and techniques needed to be effective in their positions.

In Montana, investment to develop industry workforce pipelines includes Skill Up Montana, which utilizes university resources, public-private partnerships, and proficiency-based learning to develop talent for business. throughout the state. (Photo: Montana Department of Commerce)

For these reasons and more, for companies operating in today’s competitive landscape the ability to attract workers and at the same time keep employees on top of their game is critical. This often requires finding workforce partners offering an array of tools including “boots on the ground” information, data analysis, and expertise to help companies evaluate their needs and design customized solutions.

But where to start? Here’s a look at what some top locations across the U.S. are doing to address today’s workforce needs:

Creative Workforce Solutions: Pasco County, Florida

Pasco County, FL, is home to a community of innovative workforce development programs. From the American Manufacturing Skills Initiative (AmSkills) that allows workers to explore and pursue careers in advanced manufacturing, to a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) career paths through employer-advised curriculum, future employers can easily locate and engage their future workforce. The Pasco Economic Development Council features the award-winning WorkforceCONNECTpasco.com platform which allows employers to identify programs that produce talent that will thrive in their industries as well as explore resources that can help their business stand out to top candidates. Utilizing WorkforceCONNECT, employers can also access available grants and training programs to continue upskilling employees. The platform also allows job seekers to explore career pathways in a diverse economy of fast-growing industries.

Pasco County, FLIn 2020, Santander Consumer USA moved its global headquarters to Pasco County, FL and utilized the county’s WorkforceCONNECT platform in its employee search. (Photo: Pasco Economic Development Council)

Santander Consumer USA moved its Global Headquarters to Pasco in 2020 and utilized workforce data compiled by WorkforceCONNECT to ensure they would be able to meet the demand of 875 workers at its new Lutz facility. Pasco EDC’s WorkforceCONNECT platform was able to show that proximity to major arterial roadways unlocked a larger recruitment radius. Not only does WorkforceCONNECT provide data to companies looking to move to Pasco, but it also provides existing companies with vital labor market data to remain appealing to workers.

As Bill Cronin, Pasco EDC President/CEO, noted recently, “Upskilling existing workers continues to be a top strategy for growing businesses. Workers consistently rate professional growth as a top priority in the workplace, and upskilling existing workers is much more cost-effective than hiring new.”

WorkforceCONNECT, through its local and state partners, finds creative solutions to offset employer’s costs for training. Organizations such as CareerSource Pasco Hernando offer employers solutions with the flexibility to meet unique needs. Moffitt Cancer Center is building a one-of-a-kind “medical city” on 775 acres in Pasco and will become one of the largest employers in the county. “We are already working with them to prepare a talent pipeline to meet the future workforce requirements,” said Cronin. “Information technology skills are in high demand from our life science employers.”

Pasco’s pipeline is increasing STEAM programs with schools such as Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation, Saint Leo University School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science (CARDS), and a newly constructed grade 6-12 academy adjacent to the new Moffitt Pasco campus.

WorkforceCONNECT guides employers to the right resources for workforce needs, exposes students to local career paths into high-growth target industries, and helps reskill and upskill workers to reach their fullest potential.

Heavily In Workforce: Montana Department Of Commerce

Frederick Van Den Abbeel, Business Attraction Manager with the Montana Department of Commerce, noted the state has a number of flagship programs that provide training for both existing and new employees and businesses including:

Workforce Training Grants encourage job creation in primary sector businesses and offer training incentives for new businesses.Incumbent Worker Training Program is a competitive grant program that provides funds for Montana’s small businesses to offer employees skill-based training or certified education for their existing businesses.Big Sky Economic Development Program, created by the 2005 Legislature, is funded out of the state’s Coal Tax Severance Trust Fund. It provides business grants of up to $7,500 per net new employee. Use of the funds is flexible; many businesses put it toward capital investments.

Van Den Abbeel said Montana is making large, creative investments to develop its industry workforce pipelines. One initiative, Skill Up Montana, utilizes university resources, public-private partnerships, and proficiency-based learning to develop this pipeline. Another is Accelerate Montana. This business-based program will provide a talent pool and expert training in a variety of industries.

Success Stories

Bridger Aerospace Group Holdings, LLC of Bozeman, MT, is an aerial firefighting company specializing in wildfire management, relief, and suppression using next-generation technology. Founded with a single aircraft, the company now has a fleet of 20 purpose-built firefighting aircraft. In Bridger Aerospace’s project, they used the majority of the BSTF funds to purchase specialized equipment called “super scoopers” to fight fires. Funds paid out for year one’s creation of 30 jobs were specifically matched by an investment in equipment purchases by Bridger Aerospace at a rate of $2 for every $1 received from BSTF. In addition, the economic impact of those 30 full-time jobs at an average wage of $34.76 to the local economy is easy to imagine—that is more than $2 million annually in gross wages.Advanced Technology Group (ATG), headquartered in Kansas City with offices in Missoula, MT, was one of the fastest-growing IT consulting business in the nation. In 2018, ATG was acquired by Cognizant, a US-based global IT provider, with more than 260,000 employees. Cognizant is listed as the 193rd company in the Fortune 500 List published by Fortune magazine and has consistently been recognized as a top employer in more than 15 countries.
Since the acquisition by Cognizant, ATG has formed a partnership with the University of Montana to develop a first-of-its-kind training program. The starting wage for AIM graduates is $50,000/year. The Montana Department of Commerce provided over $2.1 million toward the creation and training of new jobs. According to ATG, this funding has allowed the company to be more aggressive in its growth.

Paving The Way: Virginia Economic Development Partnership

The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, delivered by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in partnership with the Virginia Community College System, provides world-class training and recruitment solutions fully customized to a company’s unique operations, equipment, standards, and culture. As Mike Grundmann, Senior Vice President, Talent Solutions for VEDP, explained, all program services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies as an incentive for job creation.

In addition to recruiting and customized training services, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program offers a robust suite of organizational development and operational excellence training and consulting services.

Virginia Economic Development PartnershipAs Morgan Olson ramped up in Danville, VA, the van manufacturer utilized the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program to quickly build its manufacturing workforce. (Photo: Virginia Economic Development Partnership)

The Virginia Jobs Investment Program provides funding to new or existing companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change to reduce the human resource development costs for new companies, expanding companies, and companies retraining their employees.

Funding for each new full-time job created or full-time employee retrained is based on a customized budget determined by an assessment of the company’s recruiting and training activities, as well as the project’s expected benefit to the Commonwealth.

Illustrative Examples

When Morgan Olson located a new plant in the City of Danville, the delivery van manufacturer tasked the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program with recruiting and training a workforce of 700. The Program’s support ranged from training operators on assembly procedures to creating what is known as Morgan Olson’s Leadership Academy, an immersive program tackling topics such as emotional intelligence, A3 thinking, conflict resolution, and managing across generations. The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program enabled Morgan Olson to hire 700 people in about half the originally planned time.

“I’ve worked with workforce development programs in four different states throughout the Southeast… [the] Virginia Talent Accelerator has been the most engaged that I’ve worked with,” noted Steven Parker, General Manager at Morgan Olson. “They have such a talented and diverse team that covers all the needs for a company new to the area.”

Ceres Nanosciences, Inc., a life sciences company that makes innovative products to improve diagnostic testing, announced an expansion of its operation in Prince William County to increase the manufacturing capacity of its Nanotrap® Magnetic Virus Particles for COVID-19 tests, creating up to 50 new jobs in the engineering, advanced manufacturing, and materials sciences fields. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP) supported the job creation.

“Virginia has a deep well of scientific talent and resources that are critical for success in the biotech and life sciences industry,” said Ross Dunlap, CEO of Ceres Nanosciences. “Virginia offers real incentives that help companies attract and retain talent. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program provides funding and support for valuable training that we use to build our team’s technical and business skills. It’s one of the key benefits that we use to recruit top talent.”

Meeting The Needs In The Magnolia State: Accelerate Mississippi

In 2020, the state of Mississippi overhauled its workforce development system to create a centralized lead office for workforce strategy and deployment. The work of that office, Accelerate Mississippi, is quickly reaping rewards with capacity expansion of high-value training programs across prioritized economic sectors. Ryan Miller, Executive Director of Accelerate Mississippi, noted that in the past 12 months, training capacity has grown to meet the needs of the advanced manufacturing, logistics and supply chain, and energy industries—just to name a few.

“Mississippi’s extensive community college system has long been positioned to effectively train and educate Mississippians, and the creation and rapid growth of Accelerate Mississippi ensures robust and dynamic support for those colleges to meet the needs of business and industry,” said Miller.

Nissan Motor CorporationIn February 2022, Nissan Motor Corporation COO Ashwani Gupta unveils a collaboration with Accelerate Mississippi announcing its Canton facility will convert part of manufacturing operations to electric vehicles. (Photo: Mississippi Development Authority)

Mississippi leaders are applying significant American Rescue Plan dollars toward workforce efforts. Accelerate Mississippi invests tens of millions of dollars to grow the highest-demand, quality training opportunities.

In addition to expanded training efforts, 2022 legislation establishes a career coaching program to deploy individuals directly into K-12 schools to mentor students and connect them with career opportunities aligned to specific industries in the region.

“The logistics and supply chain sector in Mississippi is significant and offers great opportunities for people to make high wages working for good employers,” Miller noted. “Still, a significant gap existed across the state in the training capacity for key pathways such as diesel equipment technology.”

During the past five years, Mississippi has trained approximately 100 diesel technicians annually at state community colleges. In less than one year’s time, through partnerships with community colleges in all corners of the state, Mississippi has the capacity to train an additional 75 technicians. According to Miller, this investment means that 75 more people will be able to pursue a high-paying career field and support the supply chain that moves the state’s economy.

Training Technology: Louisiana Economic Development

Complex, customized technical training has long been a differentiator for LED FastStart, which is open to both new and expanding Louisiana businesses. Most recently, this was revealed in LED FastStart’s ability to offer virtual solutions in addition to the more traditional methods of recruiting, training, and sustaining a skilled workforce.

In the last year alone, more than 40 companies benefited from Virtual Career Fairs powered by FastStart’s state-of-the-art recruiting platform, noted Paul Helton, Executive Director, LED FastStart. Louisiana’s tech sector was the first to embrace these events, and its success catalyzed other sectors to stage similar events. FUJI Vegetable Oils, a leading producer of food ingredients, partnered with FastStart for a virtual job fair to fill 37 positions, and nearly 250 attended. More than half of the 202 participants advanced through the hiring pipeline with 103 invited to a second screening, 14 were fast-tracked to formal interviews, and nine added to prospect lists for future openings.

LED FastStartLED FastStart developed a virtual reality training program for ExxonMobil to support its polyolefins plant expansion in Baton Rouge, LA, allowing the company to provide a safe environment for employee education. (Photo: Louisiana Economic Development/LED FastStart)

“Our virtual reality training capability is transforming how some companies approach training,” said Helton. For instance, he said ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest energy companies, is the beneficiary of a new VR training program LED FastStart developed to support its polyolefins plant expansion in Baton Rouge. This brings leading-edge, site-specific training to the company’s workforce. “Our virtual reality option allowed the company to keep its operations running while providing a safe environment for employee education,” explained Helton.

Netchex, a payroll, benefits and human resources company, needed to develop new best practices for its management team. LED FastStart delivered a blended approach for performance management skills development, combining instructor-led skills application workshops with interactive webinar training. Netchex had about 70 employees and $10 million in revenue when they started working with LED FastStart. Today, Netchex has nearly quadrupled revenue with almost 300 employees.

Perhaps the biggest challenge currently facing businesses—and, by extension, the states seeking new business investment—is the ability to sustain a pipeline of qualified workers. This is where FastStart’s longstanding partnership with higher education comes into play. LED FastStart has paired numerous companies with local universities to develop industry-specific curricula.

LED FastStart launched a highly innovative workforce development initiative at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where students from Nunez Community College work with Boeing to help build the Space Launch System (SLS) that will power Artemis to the surface of the moon. To expand the steady flow of qualified candidates for this mission, FastStart developed a plan and follow-through that launched the Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Program at Nunez.

Underlying it all is LED FastStart’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Technology allows the group to expand access, which in turn empowers companies to build a workforce that reflects the community. “It’s one of the most important ways LED FastStart can sustain Louisiana businesses and build long-term prosperity for all citizens and businesses in our state,” said Helton.

Investing In Workforce: Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development

Tennessee has created innovative workforce partnerships and education reform for skills in high demand, which results in a steady pipeline of qualified candidates. The state is leading the way nationwide in K-12 education reform. It has continued that momentum and expanded to include post-secondary education through innovative initiatives, including the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) and Tennessee Promise.

The GIVE initiative is a two-pronged approach to expand access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee high school students. The GIVE initiative invests $25 million in competitively awarded community grants that will fund regional partnerships between high schools, industry, and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) to build new work-based learning/apprenticeship programs, market-driven dual-credit opportunities, and the expansion of industry-informed career and technical education offerings.

Workforce DevelopmentThe ApprenticeshipTN program is focused on providing companies in Tennessee with effective tactics and tools to both train and retain their workforce. (Photo: Tennessee Dept. of Economic & Community Development)

Tennessee Promise provides two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees to graduating high school seniors on a continual basis. Bob Rolfe, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development noted that since its inception in 2015 Tennessee Promise has helped students cover more than $129 million in college costs. “This is the first program of its kind in the country,” said Rolfe. “Other states have since followed our lead by developing similar models to support higher education and workforce development which is something we are very proud of.”

In addition, the apprenticeship tradition is a time-proven model that helps workers develop skills, while employers build a talented workforce. The state of Tennessee has been investing heavily in its program ApprenticeshipTN to help provide companies with the right tactics and tools to both train and retain their workforce. Utilizing and maximizing federal funds and resources for registered apprenticeship programs has been crucial to the success of more than 350 employers statewide since 2018.

One example of an employer with a successful apprenticeship program is Gestamp. Located in Chattanooga, Gestamp employs more than 1,000 across its three area facilities, where the company manufactures metal automotive components. Gestamp’s initiative was the first in Tennessee to earn the U.S. Department of Labor’s registered apprenticeship designation. The company partnered with the local school system and community college to provide training for industrial maintenance, tool and die, press technicians, die setters, and assembly operators. The partnership with the local school district is a work-based learning program, where students take online academic classes at Gestamp and have access to work experience at the plant; the company compensates the students for their work.

Rolfe said overall ApprenticeshipTN has been an excellent tool for addressing the immediate issues of talent attraction, jobs training, and long-term retention, as the model provides an inherent positive company culture and supportive work environment.

Workforce Initiatives Abound: Arizona Commerce Authority

Arizona helps drive business success through innovative and collaborative workforce development initiatives. To help meet rising demand for advanced manufacturing jobs, the state has partnered with industry and academia to stand up Drive48, a state-of-the-art facility providing hands-on training in Arizona’s growing automotive assembly industry. Governor Doug Ducey has put forward plans to build six advanced-training manufacturing centers to meet workforce demands in advanced industries such as semiconductors, batteries, and EVs.

To build a cohesive curriculum for manufacturing skills, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) led efforts to develop the Arizona Advanced Technology Network. The first-of-its-kind partnership—including Maricopa County Community College District, Central Arizona College and Pima Community College—has produced a unified, industry-recognized curriculum designed to teach skills needed for high-paying, high-tech advanced manufacturing jobs.

Through the ACA’s “Workforce Strategy Services,” Arizona is one of the few states to assist companies in the navigation of federal workforce programs and facilitate strategic partnerships with vital community organizations, noted Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “For these reasons and more, Arizona’s skilled talent pipeline is one of the most recognized in the world,” Watson said. “In November, labor market analyst EMSI ranked Maricopa County number one in its 2021 Talent Attraction Scorecard, the fourth time in the last six years (EMSI).”

Just a year after launching, Drive48 is bearing results—1,700 workers have been trained through the facility, representing 100 percent of hourly workforce at Lucid’s Casa Grande factory.

In Prescott, CP Technologies, a designer and manufacturer of computer hardware, has joined forces with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Yavapai College to train and hire upwards of 200 employees. CP Technologies recently moved to Arizona from its previous location in California. The company’s partnership with the colleges aims to foster an innovative ecosystem and leverage the talent produced by these educational institutions.

Likewise, KORE Power, which in July 2021 selected Buckeye, AZ, as the site for its one million-square-foot lithium-ion battery factory, has utilized the ACA’s Workforce Strategy Services to meet ambitious hiring goals.

Alabama Leading The Way: AIDT

Workforce development services provided by AIDT are among the strongest incentives for businesses who choose to locate or expand in Alabama. Celebrating 50 years in 2021, AIDT has assisted over 5,200 companies with recruiting, assessing, and training more than one million job seekers.

“At the heart of our mission is a commitment to be a full partner with our citizens and our companies to deliver the strongest workforce possible,” noted Ed Castile, Deputy Secretary of Commerce & Executive Director of AIDT.

In today’s labor market, AIDT recognizes the importance of connecting employers with skilled employees. That’s why AIDT has doubled down on its recruitment initiatives by fostering long-term relationships with potential applicants through its Talent Management team. AIDT simultaneously builds applicants’ foundational skills through its various classes and bridges the gap between their proficiency and what potential employers require.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the entire world to look at different approaches to continue providing services,” Castile said. “While AIDT was slowly transitioning to distance learning and mobile delivery of training programs, the truth is the pandemic forced us to move faster and implement better and stronger programs for our citizens and our companies. And it’s one of the positive things that emerged from 2020 and 2021.”

The last few years aside, AIDT has a long-standing reputation at the forefront of workforce development through its innovative approaches to common issues and leveraging its ability to partner with education and industry leaders, as well as other state agencies. This includes the continuous evolution of training techniques such as e-learning through modules and webinars, traditional hands-on learning, and virtual reality training (VR).

Leading the way in VR implementation in workforce development, approximately 40% of companies that AIDT works with are using the future-forward technology as part of training and assessment processes. Powered by immersive learning startup TRANSFRVR, the training initiative was built in collaboration with several companies including Hyundai Power Transformers (HPT), manufacturer of power transformers used in electrical grids across the world. VR is helping to increase compliance with industry standards as HPT employees learn to operate and service cranes within OSHA standards.

The HPT training program was recognized as the 2021 Workforce Development Program of the Year by the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.

During the last two years AIDT has continued to operate and expand its training centers and centers of excellence throughout the state. From the Robotics Technology Park to the Maritime Training Center to the Alabama Workforce Training Center, AIDT continues to emphasize specialized training for in-demand industries. In addition, AIDT operates a fleet of Mobile Training Units (MTU), a mobile classroom that can be tailored to company needs. All AIDT training classes are offered at no cost to the company or the individual.

No matter the industry, AIDT identifies needs, develops solutions, and delivers a full range of technical pre-employment programs customized to each company. Innovating and exploring new pathways to deliver a highly skilled, highly trained workforce is key to AIDT’s continued leadership in workforce development.

Meeting Worker Needs: Kansas Department of Commerce

The Kansas Department of Commerce connects businesses with job seekers and builds innovative partnerships with educational institutions and training providers—to ensure the state’s workforce is equipped to meet industry needs. In addition, Kansans looking for work or wanting to explore new career opportunities can take advantage of the workforce services provided by KANSASWORKS, which has 27 offices and dedicated staff across the state.

“We know that access to a qualified, trained, and educated workforce is central to a company’s success,” said Mike Beene, Director of Employment Services at the Kansas Department of Commerce. “Commerce provides best-in-class programs, services, and incentives for employers who choose to call Kansas home or are considering Kansas for their business.”

Workforce DevelopmentOne way the Kansas Department of Commerce connects employers and job seekers is through job fairs. This event took place in Spring 2022 in Emporia, KS. (Photo: Kansas Department of Commerce)

Beene points to a few highlights: Workforce AID (Aligned with Industry Demand), Kansas Industrial Training (KIT), Kansas Industrial Retraining (KIR), and Registered Apprenticeships. Also, no-cost services for employers include job postings on KANSASWORKS.com, job fairs, skills assessments and testing, labor market information, and training needs assessments. “These resources are valuable assets when companies are considering investing in or expanding their presence in Kansas,” Beene noted.

Workforce AID partners with industry, academia, and technical education to grow the talent pipeline in Kansas. When Caterpillar Works Tools needed to hire more workers at their facility in Wamego, they worked with the Kansas Department of Commerce to develop a Workforce AID program, in partnership with Manhattan Area Technical College, to provide customized welding training and welder certification to meet its specific manufacturing needs.

The Registered Apprenticeship program supports apprenticeships across multiple industries for both traditional and non-traditional occupations to benefit employers and create long-term employment opportunities. The program is employer designed and driven and incorporates on-the-job learning paralleled with technical instruction and mentorship. Hutchinson Community College recently established a Registered Apprenticeship program focused on occupations including installation technician, machinist, assembly welder, mechanical maintenance, and electrical automation technician. The Registered Apprenticeship program will help address the workforce needs of the local businesses in the Hutchinson community.

Beene said companies considering Kansas need to know the local workforce is equipped to accommodate their changing needs. “We have implemented robust and long-lasting strategies to build the workforce of the future. Kansas is the best place in the nation to do business—and the best place to live and raise a family,” he said.

Taking Training Seriously: Texas Workforce Commission

Texas offers prospective employers customized services to ensure they have the workforce they need to be successful and grow in the state. Services may include training, recruitment, and collaboration with local educational partners, among other things.

Texas’ premier training and upskilling program, Skills Development Fund, provides funding for customized training opportunities for businesses and their employees. Since the program’s establishment in 1996, more than 4,500 employers have participated and almost 400,000 workers have been trained. This year alone, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has over $19 million available for grants to train and upskill individuals and help employers succeed.

SteelCoastSteelCoast, a reclamation, remediation, and recycling firm, utilized TWC’s Skills Development Fund. (Photo: Alberto Garcia/Steelcoast)

The TWC collaborates with its 28 Local Workforce Development Board partners and offers recruitment and hiring services to search for qualified workers. Companies in Texas can take advantage of job matching assistance, participate in incentive programs, access information about the local labor market, get help with hiring and retaining qualified employees, and more. Essentially, the 28 regional offices throughout the state can serve as the new-to-the-state company’s part-time human resources department initially.

“Texas’ success is based on partnerships—economic development, education, and workforce come together to create customized solutions to match the needs of business,” said Mary York, TWC’s Director of Outreach and Employer Initiatives.

A recent example of collaboration is the work done to attract Tesla’s new Gigafactory. TWC worked with partners at the state and local level—the Governor’s Office, local workforce development boards, the Austin Chamber, and Austin Community College (ACC) to ensure the state’s proposal addressed the company’s needs. Based on a Skills Development Fund grant, ACC created multiple programs to train employees. The collaboration resulted in the curriculum allowing new employees to begin production quickly and efficiently.

Two of those programs include the Tesla START program and the Manufacturing Development Program, which outfit the production associates with the knowledge and skills in the critical aspects of operating an advanced manufacturing facility. Students who complete the program will receive an industry-recognized, Department of Labor certification of completion as Production Operators. The estimated regional economic impact of the training is $65.4 million.

The curriculum developed under this project will benefit other manufacturing businesses and colleges in the area. ACC also expanded its capacity by developing a curriculum for the Tesla Leadership Series. The leadership training will have elements explicitly designed to address Tesla’s advanced manufacturing needs. And, the training will be available to other businesses with appropriate modifications.

A new addition to Texas and San Antonio, Navistar manufactures commercial trucks, buses, defense vehicles, and engines. TWC collaborated with Alamo College to develop a “train-the-trainer” program to accommodate Navistar’s current and future training needs. Navistar’s Skills Development Fund grant created more than 500 new jobs. The regional economic impact of this Skills Development Fund project is projected to be $61.2 million.

SteelCoast, a reclamation, remediation, and recycling firm, created 170 new and upgraded 80 jobs with its recent project. It trained employees via partnership with TWC, Texas Southmost College, Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation, and Workforce Solutions Cameron County. The estimated regional impact of this Skills Development Fund project was $13.4 million.

Strategic Plan For Workforce: North Carolina Commerce

North Carolina’s diverse talent pool and workforce training programs give the state an edge in meeting needs of companies that seek to locate or expand here. A strong tradition of collaboration among various partners in workforce development has helped the state rack up big wins in business recruitment and job growth—even during the pandemic. Record-breaking economic development announcements have come from a broad range of sectors, including manufacturing, life sciences, fintech, logistics, and clean energy.

To build on that momentum, North Carolina launched its “First in Talent” strategic plan for economic development in 2021, placing renewed emphasis on preparing the workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The state’s workforce development system, NCWorks, includes the NC Commerce department and others, all helping businesses find and train employees.

In 2021, North Carolina added a new type of targeted workforce training grant to its economic development toolkit: the NC Job Ready Workforce Investment Grant. When collaborating on economic development projects, local workforce boards can apply for a grant, of up to $50,000 per project, to support On-the-Job Training (OJT) and Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) to assist relocating or expanding companies.

OJT provides a partial wage reimbursement to an employer to help offset the cost of training new employees. IWT grants help pay for upskilling employees who have worked at a company for six months or more.

“Since workforce is consistently the top priority of businesses considering where to relocate or expand, this new grant program positions North Carolina for continued success,” Christopher Chung, Chief Executive Officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), said at the time of the creation of the grants.

NC Job Ready grants complement the Customized Training program through the N.C. Community College System, which is recognized as a national leader. Other community college services include the growing ApprenticeshipNC program.

The state’s track record of specialized workforce development programs for companies in the aerospace sector, combined with collaboration at state and local levels, helped attract Boom Supersonic, which announced plans in January 2022 to create more than 1,750 new jobs in Greensboro by 2030.

“As our state strategic plan for economic development makes clear, we’ll keep working to make North Carolina First in Talent, and not just First in Flight,” said NC Commerce Department Secretary, Machelle Baker Sanders. “We are focused on education, skills training, and work-based learning to strengthen our talent pipeline. Our plan also calls for getting people back into the workforce by overcoming barriers to employment, so that we can engage the talents of all North Carolinians.”

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