In yet another sign that Rhode Island’s economy is recovering, an increasing number of Ocean State companies are applying for – and receiving – Incumbent Worker Training grants from the Governor’s Workforce Board.
Sixty-eight businesses are receiving grants this fiscal year ranging from $5,000 to $40,000, which they must match, to help develop and update the skills of their workforces. Training programs include: teaching lean manufacturing techniques; training workers how to use a digital contracting platform built by the U.S. Navy; and combating staff turnover by improving work-related skill sets.
Especially on the for-profit side of things, investing in workforce training often presages growth, as companies try to improve efficiency before making even larger capital or workforce investments to take on more work. Thus, while the amount of money that the state is directing to local companies is not large – $1.5 million in total in fiscal year 2014 – it serves as a signal that better things are to come.
The process is competitive. Thus 102 businesses applied for the fiscal 2014 grants, meaning that only two-thirds actually received awards. Given the dire economic straits that the state finds itself in, the current governor, as well as his successor, should make sure to keep this program’s coffers full, to both encourage Rhode Island businesses to invest in their workers. After all, the most important asset of any business is its intellectual capital. •