Photo: Pictured above, Gadsden Career Center Business Service Representative Adrienne Reed presents employers with information on Work-Based Learning and On-the-Job Training programs.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
The Chamber of Gadsden and Etowah County invited business owners to attend its Rise and Shine Economic Development Speaker Series on March 13 to learn more about On-the-Job Training and Work-Based Learning at the Alabama Career Center in Gadsden.
Gadsden Career Center Business Service Representative Adrienne Reed presented employers with beneficial information during the seminar, giving local businesses insight into lesser known programs and equipping individuals with the tools essential for success.
Work-Based Learning refers to a youth internship program geared towards introducing local 17 through 25-year-olds without extensive work histories into a workplace where they can gain quality experience. Despite being a federal and national program, employers can participate in Work-Based Learning at no cost, receiving money for Work-Based Learning hires’ salaries and maintain full autonomy concerning who they hire.
“The whole point [of Work-Based Learning] is we have a very, very low unemployment level right now,” said Reed. “It’s actually record low for the state of Alabama and Etowah County, and we want to keep it that way. The goal [of Work-Based Learning] is to develop good work habits and basic work skills for these participants.”
Participants are paid between 8-10 dollars an hour, typically working 390 hours before seeking full-time permanent placement. Gadsden Career Center currently partners with the Beautiful Rainbow Café and Gadsden Regional Medical Center to implement Work-Based Learning participants into work environments. Each work environment must be deemed safe and beneficial for the participants, ensuring that each employee gains quality skills and experience that he or she can take with them into future work endeavors.
“It’s not very difficult to find people in Alabama who qualify for [Work-Based Learning],” said Reed. “The financial requirement is the biggest thing. The government wants this money to be directed in the place where they think it will be most impactful in our community. That’s how they deemed it and I think that’s a great idea.”
While the state pays employee salaries through Work-Based Learning, employers pay employee salaries through On-the-Job Training but receive reimbursement for 50 to 75 percent of hourly wages. The reimbursement serves as an incentive for local business owners to hire individuals who need training for specific jobs, nurturing the program’s mission. On-the-Job Training is designed to work as a symbiotic relationship, fulfilling the employment needs of local employers by offering a predetermined training period from six to 26 weeks (based on training occupation and skill level of participant) while placing underemployed or unemployed workers in positions to provide for themselves and their families.
“Just like Work-Based Learning, On-the-Job Training is an opportunity for people to get a shot that they normally wouldn’t get,” said Reed. “When you’re a business owner, you put your heart, soul, sweat and equity into building your company. Sometimes, when you hire someone you’re taking a risk—you have no idea how they’re going to treat your customers, if they’re going to show up to work and the time, energy and money that you take to invest all of those things hit your bottom line. So, OTJ is designed to help try to offset some of that cost and try to encourage people to take the shot and keep our workforce strong here.”
Gadsden Career Center offers employers two types of On-the-Job Training: New Hire and Performance-Based. The New Hire OJT agreement allows employers to hire new workers in skilled positions and train them with the ultimate goal of permanent employment once the training period is successfully completed. Performance-Based OTJ agreements are designed to offer training for a large number of employees for a short period of training time, including skilled or unskilled workers, when employers need qualified employees fast. Following the training, employers are eligible to receive reimbursement for training on an hourly basis.
“One thing that is a little bit scary when you’re talking about federal money, bureaucracy and paperwork is [the idea of] more work added to you and your daily lives,” said Reed. “In my opinion, it’s really not a whole lot of work. All that is required from the people that I have [business] relationships with right now is every month they give me time sheets, I create an invoice for them and bring it to them, they sign it and receive their funds within a number of weeks.”
Reimbursements for Performance-Based OJT agreements are provided at the completion of the contract, which can prove substantial financial amounts depending on the amount of employees hired. To participate, employers must have Workman’s Compensation or approved on-site accidental insurance, participate in E-Verify and are required to sign up with the State of Alabama Accounting and Resource System (STAARS). Trainees and potential employees must meet the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) eligibility requirements, work full-time with a minimum of 30 hours per week, receive the same wages and benefits as other employees holding the same or similar positions ($10 per hour minimum) while abiding by the same company policies and must not currently work for the employer.
At the end of the presentation, Reed distributed pitch cards that audience members can give to individuals they think might prove interested in OTJ as employees. Reed explained that for business owners, the best OTJ contracts are with people that employers already have in mind, because those pre-established relationships develop into committed employees. Reed answered questions from several local businesses represented at the presentation, providing thorough and detailed information to each individual. Through her efforts, Reed ensures that employers are provided with ample knowledge essential to developing and continuing their businesses successfully, while aiding available employees in the process.
“I really enjoyed the presentation today,” said Family Savings Credit Union Marketing Communications Coordinator Ashleigh Dean. “I thought that Adrienne Reed did an excellent job. To me, [OTJ] is one of the best kept secrets in Gadsden. I plan on passing this information along to my human resources department today when I get back to the office.”
For more information concerning the Gadsden Career Center, Work-Based Learning or On-the-Job Training, contact Adrienne Reed at 256-546-4667 ext. 855017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.