Plastics processors who consistently cite training, hiring and retention among their biggest problems now have an opportunity to start making a difference.
The federal government recently put more control of job-training resources in the hands of local employers. The change, which took place July 1, was part of the Workforce Investment Act passed by Congress in 1998.
The law gives local boards more control over how to spend federal training funds. Prior to the change, the government restricted most of its aid to programs that helped unemployed and economically disadvantaged workers. Now that string is gone, and local boards can use more of the money to train existing workers.
Some companies are taking advantage of the change. They´re working with schools and community colleges to create new training programs. Some target processor companies, offering job-specific skills that workers need to advance and be more productive.
Training, retention and hiring problems aren´t new, and they aren´t isolated. There are plenty of good ideas out there, and many are working. But according to the word from the field, the success of those programs depends a lot on local employers actually getting involved.
Some employers will be wary of participating. Usually they offer one of these excuses:
Why train employees just so they´ll find a job somewhere else? That line of reasoning just doesn´t fly. Yes, some workers will go through a training program and take those portable skills to a new employer. That´s frustrating. But it´s a price you pay when you invest in workers. Training your employees sends the signal that you value their work and their potential. That reputation does wonders for your retention and recruitment efforts.
I don´t have time to get involved. Time always is in short supply. But if your company is serious about dealing with training problems, you should find a way to participate. Let your local job-training board know what your company needs. Coordinate your efforts with other local processors.
If you´re already involved with local training programs, use this change in the federal law as an opportunity to recruit more companies for support. If you´re not, find the local processors that are active and ask how you can help. Working within the system doesn´t necessarily mean a long-term commitment to serve on the local job board. (They might not want you anyway).
Working with the government can be frustrating, especially when it involves a lot of red tape. The change in the law is a step in the right direction. Now employers need to take the next step to make the move pay dividends.