- New Jersey's Department of Labor is providing $3 million in matching grants for training to the state's businesses. The department announced that about 223 employers could receive between $18,000 and $250,000 to upgrade their frontline workers' skills through the program UPSKILL: NJ Incumbent Worker Training Grants. Employers are required to match the grants by at least 50%.
- According to the department, the grants will help lower the costs of upskilling some 8,455 employees in healthcare, manufacturing, food, packaging and other sectors. An additional $3 million will be awarded in the second round of grants.
- The department specified it doesn't intend the grants to subsidize the kind of training that employers can provide without grants.
Cost is a clear barrier for training initiatives. A growing number of employers — driven by a chronic skills shortage — are putting aside the costs and investing more in learning and development. In fact, Ellie Bertani, Walmart's director of HR strategy and innovation, suggested in a January HR Dive article that instead of thinking of learning as a costly expense, employers should think of it as a necessary investment. "I believe business needs to stop looking at employees as a cost center and realize they are an investment. Training them is an investment that will pay dividends in the future," Bertani said.
Not all training initiatives based on collaborations between governments and other entities have been without controversy. For example, the Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, a national coalition of organizations involved in expanding apprenticeship programs, opposed the Trump administration's proposal to reconstruct the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) apprenticeship approval process. The Administration announced in June a plan that would amend the National Apprenticeship Act to acknowledge select groups as standards recognition entities, which would set criteria for the structure, course of study and training of industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. In a letter to DOL, the collaborative expressed concern that creating a duel-track system of programs could further fracture the national apprenticeship system and bring about programs that vary in quality.
Despite this, training programs, particularly apprenticeships, generally are working well for businesses. A report from the Institute for WorkPlace Skills & Innovation America found that modern apprenticeship programs, which combines classroom learning with on-the-job training, have been successful. Although the talent shortage continues to challenge employers, many appear to find some relief through L&D.