Ohio to roll out training vouchers
Newark Advocate - December 31, 2012
Jessie Balmert of the Newark Advocate quotes Policy Matters Ohio workforce researcher Hannah Halbert in this article about the long-awaited Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program.
The $50 million program, funded with casino revenue, began taking applications this month; it is intended to help reimburse companies for the cost of training current employees. Underscoring the need for such a program, the article quotes Bridget McDaniel, executive director of the Richland County Development Group:
“Funds for training current employees are much less available than funds for prospective employees, McDaniel said. The money should help Ohioans retain manufacturing jobs, which have become highly specialized, she added.”
The voucher program is specifically targeted to support promising industries in the state that offer well-paying jobs, and only high-skill training is eligible for reimbursement:
“The voucher reimburses employers up to $500,000 for training of employees who work at least 25 hours per week and earn at least 150 percent of minimum wage. The targeted industries are advanced manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, automobile, biohealth, corporate headquarters, energy, financial services, food processing, information technology and services and polymers and chemicals — areas of high-growth in Ohio.
Employees are eligible for up to $4,000 for an industry-recognized certificate, improved computer skills or training from the trade association. Funds cannot go toward a General Educational Development Test (GED), conference fees or management and leadership classes.”
Balmert goes on to quote Halbert, who welcomes the program as a state response to federal cuts:
“The state-level funding is important to offset losses to the federal Workforce Investment Act, which has faced cuts and could see more depending on talks in Washington, said Hannah Halbert, policy liaison and workforce researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal-leaning think tank.”
But Balmert notes that we want to make sure funds are well spent, and that we have advocated that policymakers fund industries, not individual companies.
“Halbert also suggested funding regional, industry-specific groups instead of individual companies.These groups of large and small businesses, local colleges and development directors would better serve interests of area instead of one company, she added.
“There’s an effort to be employer driven; that’s a good thing and a smart thing,” Halbert said. “We’re just trying to get the right strategy.”