By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
Trained workers are difficult to come by, and the situation is putting a county program through the paces as it helps businesses search for solutions.
Madison County Employment and Training Department, whose role long was targeted to the individual worker, is increasingly finding itself dealing more directly with the employer, said Tony Fuhrmann, the department director.
Now, it’s a matter of “how do we train people to meet the needs of businesses, as opposed to previous times, when it was, ‘How do we train these people’,” he said.
The demand for more skilled workers and the trades prompted the county to beef up customized training programs for new and existing employees.
“The businesses in Madison County are seeking a trained, skilled workforce to help meet their production needs and performance goals,” he said. “Our role is assisting those businesses in finding, developing and retaining that workforce.”
Worker recruitment, applicant assessment, job postings, job fairs and other specialized training programs are offered.
In the past year, Employment and Training, partnered with Phillip’s 66 Refinery and U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works to provide applicant assessment. The department tested at its Wood River office as well as onsite at the plants in Roxana and Granite City.
“The department assessed more than 900 individuals for both these companies,” Fuhrmann said.
The funding is provided through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Employment and Training partners with local community colleges, technical schools, universities, and other training providers to build the talent pipeline for area businesses.
Sarah Lorio, the county’s work-based learning coordinator, said three specialized training programs help businesses with funds to train or retain their workforce:
– On-the-Job Training helps companies save on hiring and training costs.
– Registered apprenticeships provide a pipeline of skilled workers with industry-specific training and hands-on experience. The programs are customizable to match an employer’s need and highly flexible in order to meet an employer’s changing requirements.
– An Incumbent Worker Training Program helps businesses train and retain employees by working on skills upgrades and improving the processes involved.
“We’ve been working with several companies on incumbent worker training projects, to train their existing workforce so they are more competitive in the market,” Fuhrman said.
The goal is that the employees who go through the training will be less likely to be laid off, should help increase a company’s capacity, and enable the company to get more contracts, which in turn means more employees can be hired and existing, trained employees can advance up the ladder.
Companies and the county are finding each other.
“Sometimes, companies come to us because they need people and we talk about recruitment assistance that we can provide through the office,” Lorio said. “That gets into a conversation about what’s going on with the business and anything we have that might match up with their needs. Sometimes it’s worker training, sometimes it’s on the job training for new employees.”
Lorio said incumbent training is done in groups of employees and can run at a reimbursable cost of somewhere around $10,000 to $35,000.
On-the-job training, on the other hand, is done individually and typically run $5,000 to $6,000 per employee, she said.
Contracts are generally set up as year-long arrangements because of the scheduling time needed to work out the training, which is provided by IMEC, the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.
Recent success stories have included the training done to build the workforce of Imperial Manufacturing in Alton.
The day of the interview Lorio had begun working on a contract with a company in Wood River for on-the-job training. Arrangements were also pending with a machine shop in Godfrey, a grain business in Granite City and a graphics business in in St. Jacob.
“We’ve got workforces from about eight people to up to 100. I think the maximum number we’re doing is around 60,” Lorio said.
Training existing workers is much more efficient than trying to find new ones, Fuhrmann said.
“It is easier to keep them than to replace them in this market. We’ve seen a big increase in the last six months. Partially because Sarah is doing a good job, and partly the reality of the economy,” he said.
Madison County is among the 22 defined Workforce Areas in Illinois.
“We’re here to assist businesses, whether it’s sending out a job posting free of charge all the way up to grant funding for training for their employees,” Lorio said.
Businesses can visit Employment and Training online or contact Lorio at [email protected] or (618) 296-4306 for more information.