Across the country, a lack of skilled workers is challenging employers both large and small in a number of industries.
We face the same workforce concerns in Kentucky and the Lincoln Trail region. That’s one reason why the Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board work vigorously to support job seekers and connect them with area employers.
While a potential employee may not have the right skill set today, training can help bridge the gap. One option available to employers is On-the-Job Training (OJT). Hiring and training a new employee takes time and presents an added expense, particularly if there’s a skills gap. OJT is a program made possible by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that reimburses an employer 50 percent of a new employee’s wages — up to $5,000 — during the training period, which can last up to six months.
The OJT program is for employers, both large and small, that intend to provide full-time, permanent employment at the end of the training period. The program is not subsidized employment for low-skill occupations that need very little training time or experience high turnover. Training wages for OJT must meet or exceed an hourly rate of $11 per hour for employers with 51 or more employees and $10 per hour for employers with 50 or fewer employees.
The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail can help recruit, screen and qualify potential employees or the employer can identify the right candidate. Once the best candidate is chosen and certified eligible for OJT, the employer hires the applicant just as they normally would. Training expenses are then submitted and reimbursed each month. From start to finish, the process is streamlined for both the job seeker and the employer.
During the last program year ending in June 2015, there were OJT agreements in place with 15 employers in five Lincoln Trail counties. A total of 64 jobseekers enrolled in the OJT program and 74 percent of those employees completed their training and were retained by their employers. The Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board (then the Lincoln Trail Workforce Investment Board) reimbursed $242,000 to local companies for training expenses.
Our goal is to see those numbers grow. While most of our OJT agreements are on the manufacturing side, businesses in other industries have the opportunity to participate as well. Our priority workforce sectors in the Lincoln Trail region include new automotive, health care, transportation, distribution and logistics, food and beverage production and information technology.
Toytomi America Corporation, an automotive manufacturer in Springfield, has leveraged the OJT program to hire and train several employees. Holly Brady, assistant manager of human resources at Toyotomi, said the program is very beneficial to job seekers and industry.
“We are completing our 19th expansion and will be adding 40 new team members is 2016,” Brady said. “The OJT program helps us offset the cost of training our team members. In turn, we can use the savings toward future expansions.”
Employers across the country are facing workforce challenges, but training can put more job seekers to work. And fortunately, there are resources like OJT available to help employers lower the cost of training while the employee earns a wage at the same time.
If you are an employer interested in On-the-Job Training, please contact a Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail office, located in Bardstown, Elizabethtown, Lebanon and Leitchfield.
Jim Skees is the business liaison for Lincoln Trail Area Development District and regional business services team lead for Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail. He can be reached at (270) 769-2393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.