The Hill College Continuing Education Department’s workforce development team is looking for eligible businesses in Bosque, Hill, Johnson and Somervell counties interested in applying for grant-funded opportunities to upskill or retrain employees as a result of COVID-19-related business needs.
The funding is provided through the Texas Workforce Commission’s new Skills Development Fund COVID-19 Special Initiative program. TWC announced the program in April pledging to award up to $10 million statewide to meet training needs in essential industries including healthcare.
Grants start at $50,000 and can be up to $250,000 with increases in $50,000 increments.
“This grant provides opportunities for existing employees to upskill their capabilities and knowledge at no cost to the employer or the employee,” Hill College Dean of Continuing Education Stephen Pape said. “Employees are able to stay with a company while taking on more responsibility and earning more money. In turn, the business benefits because its employees also become more productive and produce higher quality services and products, which has a direct impact on the bottom line.”
Interested employers will need to work with Hill College to apply for funding because, for this grant, TWC only accepts applications from and awards funding to local workforce development boards, public community and technical colleges, or Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.
Pape said the two-page application is simple to complete, and he works one-on-one with each applicant to determine training and corresponding funding needs.
“We help businesses complete the short application, as well as determine unique training needs and the courses that will best fulfill those needs,” Pape said. “My team and I will then secure instructors and develop content.”
Courses from the department’s regularly scheduled trainings can also be used to fulfill a business’ training needs including CPR, Microsoft Office Suite (Excel, Word, etc.), QuickBooks, welding, electrical, hydraulics, computer skills, medical coding, customer service and a variety of other work skills courses.
To ensure businesses have the resources they need during this unprecedented and transitional time, TWC is approving grant applications within 72 hours of submission and awarding funds within 30 days of approval.
“The goal is to begin training as quickly as possible once funding is approved by TWC,” Pape said. “It requires regular communication between key business personnel and my team.”
One training program is already underway with Double B Foods in Meridian, which Hill College received a $50,000 grant for in July.
Pape said the first course offering is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour online course for more than 20 key workers and leaders who oversee employee safety at Double B Foods. An EPA Refrigerant Handling course and a custom Ammonia Refrigeration Systems course have also been approved for the company’s maintenance team, and leadership and supervision courses are also in the works.
“This was a great opportunity for us to identify training needs and receive a customized training program through Hill College that will enhance our team’s overall skills and knowledge base,” said Double B Foods Vice President of Operations Paul Maes.
Hill College also received approval to provide a food safety training program for Goodall-Witcher Hospital in Clifton and is working to bring on other hospitals and businesses in the four-county service area before the grant expires July 31.
“We have funds available and room to serve additional business partners under the existing grant,” Pape said. “It’s my hope that we can have at least one business entity within each of the counties we serve participate in this special grant before the funds are exhausted. If interested businesses sign on quickly enough, we could even seek additional funds to be used in the early part of 2021 without having to go through a new grant application and initiation process.”
Employers interested in applying are encouraged to contact Pape as soon as possible by phone at 254-659-7823 or by email at email@example.com. For additional information about the grant, visit twc.texas.gov/files/partners/sdf-covid-19-special-training-initiative-overview-twc.pdf.