DOL offers big savings to employers through training program
by Matt Shinall
Mar 19, 2012 | 2048 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joe Frank Harris Jr., left, chamber president and CEO, talks with Chris Thomas, membership and marketing director, at the chamber’s offices in Cartersville. Thomas and the chamber are participating in the Department of Labor’s On-the-Job Training Program.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Joe Frank Harris Jr., left, chamber president and CEO, talks with Chris Thomas, membership and marketing director, at the chamber’s offices in Cartersville. Thomas and the chamber are participating in the Department of Labor’s On-the-Job Training Program. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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With a stubbornly high unemployment rate nationwide and a higher-than average long-term unemployment rate here in Georgia, federal dollars are available to employers for qualifying new hires.

Last year, the Georgia Department of Labor's On-the-Job Training Program returned more than $111,000 to Bartow County employers.

The Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, for one, will see a refund on the cost of training their newest hire, Chris Thomas. Companies hiring applicants, such as Thomas, unemployed -- at no fault of their own -- for at least 16 weeks, can apply for on-the-job training reimbursement.

"The grant we have now is for long-term unemployed. They have to have been attached to the workforce, laid off due to no fault of their own and unemployed for at least 16 weeks," said Anne Rapp, Workforce Investment Act coordinator. "A lot of [businesses] are reluctant to hire, still waiting to see what's happening with the economy. This is an incentive for them, if they hire one of our folks and offer some retraining for that person to get them up to speed in that job then at the end of the training period, we can do a reimbursement for a percentage of the base pay for that person.

"So that benefits the employer and it gets somebody back to work who has been unemployed, like in Chris' case where he needs to support a family."

Between 50 percent and 90 percent of base pay can be reimbursed for qualifying hires during the retraining period of up to four months. The rate of reimbursement is dependent on the company size. For businesses like the chamber with less than 50 employees, the WIA On-the-Job Training Program will refund 90 percent of Thomas' base pay for the first four months.

"I've placed people at companies with five employees and at companies with more than 500," Rapp said. "It's kind of a foot in the door for the employee because we ask employers to look at folks that don't have 100 percent of the skill set but have good transferable skills and an ability to learn.

"Those folks then have the reimbursement and a well-trained employee."

Companies applying for reimbursement must do so before the hire is made. Job seekers are advised to check their eligibility status at the Cartersville DOL Career Center, 19 Felton Place, and make prospective employers aware of the program and their eligibility.

For Thomas, the chamber's membership and marketing director, the OJT Program enabled him to overcome obstacles which had kept him from finding work in the past.

"You do see the statistics that say if you have a job, it's easier to get a job," Thomas said. "I think [OJT] gives the unemployed an advantage. ... I think that's huge, I think the whole benefit of that is getting the unemployment [rate] down."

Chamber President and CEO Joe Frank Harris Jr., not only found value through reimbursement, but also in the program's ability to put people back to work.

"The more people we put back to work, the quicker our community is going to be restored," Harris said.

Funds saved through the OJT Program will be used to pay for additional training which Thomas otherwise would not have been able to attend.

In a letter provided by GDOL, Vista Metals of Adairsville wrote a recommendation for the OJT Program.

"The program offers incentives to local companies to train qualified persons in their processes, ultimately leading to full-time employment. The program has been a tremendous success for Vista Metals Georgia. It has enabled our company to develop a quality workforce for our operation while at the same time benefiting the community by providing employment for many of the local residents," stated Plant Manager Jim Stewart. "The job training program has proven invaluable to Vista Metals Georgia. It has provided critical resources required to establish our manufacturing facility affirming our decision to locate in Georgia."

Employers are not bound to retain the trainee and paperwork is handled by Cartersville DOL Career Center staff. The OJT Program also may be able to provide reimbursement for necessary equipment for new hires.

For more information on the OJT Program, visit the Cartersville DOL Career Center or call Rapp at 770-387-3760.