Money available for expanding businesses

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | May 10, 2013

Haywood County JobLink Career Center in Waynesville is offering reimbursement to employers for hiring new employees, but the center is having a hard time finding participants.

Dean Tomlinson, workforce development specialist, said the program has been available through the Workforce Investment Act for about 25 years, but the funding has been spotty at times.

“It changes every year but I have a good feeling it will be there next year,” he said. “At least enough to support Haywood County. I haven’t spent all I had for last year yet.”

The On-the-Job Training Program can assist businesses looking to expand that need to hire additional staff with specialized skills. The program reimburses employers to help compensate for loss of production after hiring new employees. It is meant to help employers hire people who may not otherwise get the position because they lack a necessary skill.

“It is a ‘win-win’ situation with an eligible job seeker getting a new job and an employer being reimbursed up to 90 percent of the starting wage for the new employee,” said Tomlinson said. “OJT contracts are usually two to five months in duration depending on the level of training needed.”

The program was able to help six jobseekers find a job in the last 12 months. Tomlinson said he would like to help 15-20 a year depending on available funding.

Margaret Townzel-Langston, human resource manager for the Town of Waynesville, said she used the program last year to hire a new employee.

“It worked very well for us,” she said. “We filled out the paperwork and turned it in. They were prompt in payment and we got an excellent employee.”

She said the employee was still working for the town at the water plant and now earned his first operating certification. Now anytime she gets ready to hire someone she checks to see if they’re eligible through the program. However, she said the program is only available for someone who is currently unemployed, and many times the town offers new full-time positions to current part-time employees. Also, the training has to be for a brand new skill that the employee doesn’t already have.

“It’s very beneficial for the employer and the employee,” Townzel-Langston said. “It allows us to take that money and use it for other things. We put it back into the organization and to hire new employees. “

Employers with 50 employees or less may be reimbursed up to 90 percent of the starting wage; Employers with 51-250 employees may be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the starting wage; and employers with more than 250 employees may be reimbursed up to 50 percent of the starting wage.

Employers benefit by being partially reimbursed for training costs, receiving customized training and not having to deal with a bunch of paperwork. Employees benefit because they get to earn a paycheck while learning a new skill and receive job coaching along the way.

The employer selects criteria for OJT trainees, and the JobLink WIA staff will identify clients who meet the criteria. The employer makes the final hiring decision.

The program does have a few restrictions. Employers can’t use OJT funded trainees to replace employees laid off within six months prior to the date of the application. Employers must agree to hire any OJT trainees as regular, full-time employees and the pay and benefits must be the same as other new hires doing similar work. Training must be conducted at the employer’s place of business and can’t be subcontracted.

Tomlinson said he has plenty of eligible clients to pair with businesses. For more information about the program, employers should call Tomlinson at 456-6061 or email dean@regiona.org

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