Friday, December 3, 2010

Grant could help local employers

Federal funding for on-the-job training

Express Staff Writer

Holiday hiring is just around the corner, but local businesses may want to check with the Idaho Department of Labor before training new permanent employees.

As of October, local businesses could take advantage of federal funding that helps subsidize the cost of training those employees.

So far, no Blaine County businesses have applied for the funding, said Lacie Hernandez, a workforce consultant with the Idaho Department of Labor.

Department spokesman Bob Fick said the $625,000 federal grant is expected to help 100 Idahoans receive training.

"Any time you take over a job, there's stuff you have to learn from the guy who was there before," Fick said. "What the subsidy does is cover the lost productivity while the employee is gearing up."

The subsidy matches at least half of an employee's wages while the employee is receiving on-the-job training. Such training could include software training or even a skill as basic as learning to use a cash register.

Fick said that so far, the funds have been released for 10 employees throughout the state.

Hernandez said that though the cities of Ketchum and Hailey inquired about the wage matching, government entities can't apply for the money.

There are other restrictions on the money, such as a real need for training.

"They can't get money under the guise of training someone who doesn't need the training," Fick said.

The job must also be a permanent, full-time position, meaning many of the seasonal retail positions that crop up during the holiday season are not included.

Minimum-wage positions are also not included, as the jobs are required to pay at least $10 an hour and include benefits such as health care. That would exclude most ski-season food service and retail positions in the Wood River Valley.

Employees who are receiving the wages are restricted as well, as they must have been previously laid off or unemployed for at least 17 weeks. They also must be screened by the Department of Labor.

Still, Fick said the department stands ready to help businesses figure out if they are eligible for any of the federal money.

"Employers just need to call their local office," he said. "A lot of it can be taken care of over the phone."

Interested employers should contact the Bellevue office of the Department of Labor, 788-3526.

Katherine Wutz:

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