Table of Contents

Continuing Education
Cover Story
Hands On

Inside Dental Technology

September 2012, Volume 3, Issue 8
Published by AEGIS Communications

Taking Advantage of State-Based Incentive Programs

Find the right employees for business growth.

By Nick Azar

Whether your dental laboratory has one employee or 1,000, the publicly funded Workforce Investment System can be a valuable addition to your human resource capabilities and an invaluable tool to help transform your workforce for the 21st-century economy.

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was signed into law by President Clinton on August 7, 1998, to replace the Adult Education Act. The signing marked the first major job training reform in over 15 years. The goal of WIA is to integrate welfare, unemployment compensation, employment services, and training into one seamless system of public assistance reform.

The WIA calls for states to apply a “work first” concept to the use of federally funded job-training efforts. Congress reauthorized WIA in 2003, and is currently working on a number of initiatives designed to inform the reauthorization process. For dental laboratories, the WIA initiative can be an invaluable tool to:

• increase your profitability through an analysis of available government incentives and tax credits for new product development, such as investment in CAD/CAM technology.
• use real-time information about workforce and career information, such as local wages and economic trends, industry competencies, and standardized training to shape your business decisions.
• reduce recruitment costs and increase retention through workforce solutions, such as screening and referral of job-ready candidates.
• develop a more competitive workforce by connecting to training and other “up-skilling” resources.

The Public Workforce System

The public workforce system is a network of federal, state, and local offices that function to support economic expansion and develop the talent of the American workforce. In order to meet the challenges of the 21st century global economy, the public workforce system works in partnership with employers, educators, and community leaders to foster economic development and high-growth opportunities in regional economies.

How the Public Workforce System is Organized

Although the public workforce system is federally funded, most of the services for businesses are available at the state and local level. These services are controlled by a state workforce investment board, which determines strategic priorities, identifies high-growth industries, develops a workforce investment budget, and establishes local workforce investment areas across the state. For more information on particular state workforce investment contacts, visit dentalaegis.com/go/idt58.

By law, more than 50% of each state’s workforce investment board is made up of employer representatives from the community representing businesses like yours. To find out more about your local workforce investment board, visit www.servicelocator.org, which is a product of CareerOneStop (www.careeronestop.org). CareerOneStop is the heart of the public workforce system and your access point to qualified workers as well as federal, state, and local resources and assistance.

In order to design WIA programs, state and local WIBs (Workforce Investment Board) must develop 5-year plans outlining how funds should be used. WIBs at both the state and local levels consider various factors when deciding how to use funds, including:

• employment opportunities for entry-level workers.
• industry’s workforce needs as identified through a workforce analysis and/or communication with industry representatives. (Industry representatives may participate as elected members of the WIB or request meetings with the WIB to present needs and ways in which these needs could be addressed.)
• potential of state and local WIBs to meet performance goals, including earning levels, and retention rates. Failing to meet performance goals may result in financial penalties and/or having WIB membership restructured.

Once you have educated yourself about the public workforce system and the workforce investment boards in your local area, you need to get connected and find out about partnership opportunities that can help you meet your workforce goals. Consider these steps to help you make the most of your connections.

  1. Perform a self-assessment of your company, including your largest workforce challenges, areas of opportunity, and existing or potential partnerships.
  2. Based on this self-assessment, create a snapshot view of your company that you can share with your partners in the public workforce system.
  3. Gain an understanding of the public workforce system, economic development, and other resources in your area.

Healthcare Workforce Opportunities

Tech-Prep grants are awarded to employers to provide a sequenced course of study in a specified area, such as health occupations. Many states such as Alabama, California, Maryland, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and many others have made use of Tech-Prep grants and provide funds to educate and train individuals in several health professions. Through WIA funding, these states have designated occupational training programs that are eligible for reimbursement. These programs are available at various community colleges or through eligible training providers throughout the state. Some of the healthcare workforce areas that qualify include EKG technicians, dental assistants and hygienists, dental technicians, pharmacy technicians, and nursing assistants. Funding for the training programs is provided to eligible individuals through WIA Individual Training Accounts.

Addressing qualified workforce shortages in healthcare often requires job preparation, training resources, and job supports that the technology schools and approved training providers in these specialized areas are not able to assemble independently.

Using Local Level State-Basic Grant Funds

State-basic grant funds are awarded to secondary and postsecondary schools to develop vocational and technical education programs and provide services, including:

• helping students gain experience in and understanding of all aspects of an industry.
• extending professional development opportunities to teachers, including internships with industries.
• involving business and/or labor organizations in the development of vocational and technical education programs.
• offering career guidance.
• making work-related experiences available, such as internships, cooperative education, and job shadowing.
• forming local education and business partnerships.
• assisting students with job placement.

This article has identified various federal programs, including the Workforce Investment Act and others, that are being used by state agencies, academic institutions, and approved training providers to recruit and train healthcare employees. These programs offer flexible opportunities to address the healthcare workforce shortage. By partnering with these programs, businesses such as dental laboratories can build upon their mutual interest in moving job seekers into successful employment in the dental field.

About the Author

Nick Azar is a business strategist, executive coach, and founder of Azar & Associates.