Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds in-demand skills training

February 16, 2017
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Jim Skees

Like many advanced manufacturers throughout the Lincoln Trail region, Tower International is dedicated to ensuring its employees have the right skills. It’s a practice that not only allows employees to grow professionally and advance their careers, but it also promotes the company’s competitiveness.

A global leader in metal stamping for the automotive and other industries, Tower International has enjoyed expansions – more than doubling the size of its operations since opening in 1996. In addition, the industry is driven more than ever by state-of-the-art technology. This has created new opportunities for skilled workers at a time when manufacturers across the state and the country are struggling to fill a technical skills gap.

More and more companies are addressing the skills gap by helping existing employees develop new skills or, to put it another way, growing their own talent.

The Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board helps employers make that training more affordable through the Incumbent Worker Training, funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The program is designed to helps employers in the Lincoln Trail region – Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, LaRue, Marion, Meade, Nelson and Washington counties – ensure they retain and grow the workforce that is critical to their success in an ever-evolving marketplace and, therefore, critical to the economic health of our region.

Incumbent Worker Training reimburses 50 to 90 percent of training costs, depending on the size of the company, for in-demand sectors and occupations including manufacturing, technology, healthcare, food and beverage production and transportation, distribution and logistics.

Employers can qualify for as much as $10,000 per year to cover costs such as non-company instructors, tuition, curriculum development, textbooks, supplies and more.

At Tower International, the Incumbent Worker Training program is helping to cover training costs for three employees in the company’s registered apprenticeship programs. Two employees are completing tool and die apprenticeships and another is in a maintenance apprenticeship – both highly sought-after trades, said Human Resources Manager Lynelle Coomes. And with lower training costs, the company is able to promote more employees into its apprenticeship programs.

“The program assists us in developing our colleagues’ technical skills, ensuring success for the colleague and Tower,” Coomes said. “It’s also worth noting that investing in our colleagues’ skill development has proven to promote loyalty and reduce turnover.”

One of the employees supported with Incumbent Worker Training funding is Justin McIntyre, who has worked for Tower for 10 years and was promoted from the production area. He noted that what he is learning in classes goes hand in hand with the hands-on, interesting work he does at Tower.

“It is life changing for me,” he said of his training and advancement. “I earn a good wage here, and my job is career-based, so I am working for my family and to improve my career.”

Teresa Smith, Human Resources Generalist at Tower, said she appreciates that the program targets existing employees.

“It’s a win-win,” she said, explaining that not only does an employee enhance their skills, but the company gains, for example, a maintenance technician who can troubleshoot and repair as well as draw on their knowledge of Tower’s press and assembly areas.

While Tower has paired Incumbent Worker Training with its registered apprenticeship programs, funding is available for other types of training, and many companies leverage funding for shorter term training. However, the training must lead the employee to earning a certificate or credential that allows them to increase their pay and advancement potential.

Developing a talent pipeline that meets the needs of local employers is essential to giving our region a competitive advantage. It’s an advantage that attracts new business investment and helps existing companies grow, creating new opportunities for our residents and communities. That’s why we have a local team dedicated to offering personal, customized assistance, and we hope more employers will leverage the benefits like Tower International has.

If you’re interested in skills training for your company’s workforce, I encourage you to learn more about how Incumbent Worker Training can help.

Jim Skees is the business liaison for Lincoln Trail Area Development District and regional business services team lead for Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail, which is overseen by the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. He can be reached at 270-769-2393 or jim@ltadd.org.


The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail helps match job seekers with local employment and training opportunities. Our business solutions team offers employers of all sizes and industries personalized support to build a competitive workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer.

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Program is funded with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funds through the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. The Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board assures compliance with the Education and Labor Cabinet’s Methods of Administration, as amended, Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Assurance and all other Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity requirements of WIOA.