Training grants help keep companies competitive

Filed under: Contributed Columns |

The ups and down of current economic news can make you woozy. One good thing that reports show is that we are still in a recovery, all be it a slow one, and at some point in the near future the economy will grow. The challenge is to stay competitive and position your company for the eventual growth cycle.

It is no secret that training offers many competitive advantages. Training can keep existing employees fresh, engaged and ready to help you compete against other companies who are training their workforce. It can also quickly bring new employees up to speed and make them contributing assets to the company.

The secret seems to be in how to find money to pay for it. With expenses cut to the bone, company specific training can be wishful thinking for many middle market businesses struggling to stay afloat.

Grants can help bridge the gap and allow companies to get needed training.

Annually, the Colorado legislature appropriates $2.7 million that flow through the State of Colorado Office of Economic Development in conjunction with the Colorado Community College System. The funds are administered through all Colorado community colleges and are earmarked for training assistance. There are two components — Colorado Existing Industry grants help train current employees and Colorado First grants help train new employees hired since January 1 of the current year. The grants are capped at $800 per person.

The Pikes Peak Community College assists local companies in applying for these funds.

“We meet with businesses to help them develop the training strategies and plans as we assist in writing the best possible grant applications. If awarded, we help the business meet the expectations laid out in the grant proposal and stay on top of any reporting requirements,” said Jerry Fritz, dean of the economic and workforce development division at Pikes Peak Community College.

Applications are normally accepted the first part of August. Grant money is normally distributed in September, and training must be completed by the following May. Final reports are due in June.

“The initial paperwork was a little cumbersome, but compared to the positive outcome it was not difficult to do,” said Steve Wychulis, director of corporate development for CEA Technologies. “The Pikes Peak Community Collage staff helped a great deal with the grant writing.”

The program favors primary industries identified by Governor Ritter as desirable for the state.

Bioscience/Healthcare

Alternative Energy/Renewable Energy

Advanced IT

Aerospace

Retail, casinos, non profits and those who are part of the government are precluded from this grant program.

“We need to continually update the skills of our employees especially in a competitive environment,” commented Wychulis. “Our initial expectations for the training were to decrease waste across the entire organization and to improve efficiencies. We saw the Colorado Existing Industry Grant as a way to add a multiplying effect to our ongoing efforts. The grant allowed us to access knowledgeable consultants and learn best practices at the same time.”

As a result of the training, CEA Technologies saw significant improvement throughout the entire organization. The company was able to focus on ten different areas and provide expert training.

The Pikes Peak Workforce Center also offers many grant and assistance programs to help companies offer employee training. Including their innovative new Incumbent Workers program which provides grants for training so that companies can help their employees learn new skills or upgrade existing skills to ensure business competitiveness.

“This is the only program in the state and was created specifically for the Pikes Peak Region to act as a lifeline for those industries that need training to stay competitive,” commented Michelle Graham, director business and community initiatives with Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

The deadline for this program is the end of business today, April 9. Go to www.ppwfc.org for an application.

Ann Snortland, principal of Snortland Communications www.snortcomm.com, is the spokesperson for the Peak Venture Group Middle-Market Entrepreneurs. She can be reached at ann@snortcomm.com.