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Look to State Funding to Help Close Skills Gaps

Thursday, July 28, 2016

When it comes to investments in training and education, states have several streams of funding. Workforce training programs for organizations, investments in elementary and secondary schools, and investments in community college or higher education are all important to helping solve the skills gap problem. Workforce development funds, mainly provided by the federal government, are administered by state and local workforce development boards through federal and state policies. 

Most states that invest in workforce training programs administer the funds through the states’ department of labor, department of economic development, or a workforce development agency. Some state agencies also administer tax credits for the training investments organizations make. 

Talent development professionals in the United States should know how to find out about workforce training programs in the state where their organization does business. ATD’s Public Policy Council has updated a resource that provides information on each state’s workforce program. For those who work with organizations located in multiple states, it is wise to check out all of the programs available to employers. This is an important and often over-looked opportunity to supplement current training budgets with public funds to upskill an organization’s workforce. 

Here are three examples of states that run programs:

The Employment Training Panel (ETP) provides funding to employers to assist in upgrading the skills of their workers through training that leads to good paying, long-term jobs. The ETP was created in 1982 by the California State Legislature and is funded by California employers through a special payroll tax. The ETP is a funding agency, not a training agency. Businesses determine their own training needs and how to provide training. ETP staff is available to assist in applying for funds and other aspects of participation.

The Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) grants provide funding for customized training to existing for-profit businesses. Through this grant for example, Brevard County is able to effectively retain businesses and help them stay competitive by supporting skills-upgrade training for existing full-time employees.
IWT grants are structured to be flexible to meet the business’s training objectives. The business may use a public or private training provider, or may use an in-house training provider based on the nature of the training. Since its inception, IWT grants have helped provide customized training to more than 98,000 Floridians at more than 1,000 businesses throughout Florida.


The Skills Development Fund is Texas' premier job-training program providing training opportunities for Texas businesses and workers. Funding for the program is administered by the Texas Workforce Commission. Success is achieved through collaboration among businesses, public community and technical colleges, workforce development boards, and economic development partners.

The Skills Development Fund program assists businesses and trade unions by financing the design and implementation of customized job-training projects. This fund successfully merges business needs and local customized training opportunities into a winning formula to increase the skill levels and wages of the Texas workforce.

More Resources


Information for all 50 states is available on the ATD’s public policy page.

If you are interested in learning more about identifying public funding for training, consider registering for the upcoming Essentials Series program, Essentials of Identifying Public Funding for Training, which will guide you through the public workforce system and discuss federal and state grant opportunities. 

About the Author

Michael founded TRAINING SOLUTIONS, Inc. in 1995. With currently over 32 years of business management and HR/training experience, Michael offers a variety of skills and expertise to clients. He has facilitated many people skills training programs throughout the country for a wide variety of clients, from large corporations to small-midsize companies to nonprofits to universities. Many of his sessions focus on behaviors/attitudes, customer service, sales, leadership, management development and team building. Michael has earned the DiSC Certification given by Inscape Publishing (the publisher of DiSC). Michael also provides in-depth executive coaching services to management and executive level staff. His coaching program includes a 360-degree feedback process.

Michael is a highly respected speaker and advisor on the Workforce Investment Act and related publicly-funded workforce funding programs. He served on Former Virginia Governor Warner’s State Workforce Council and also sat on its executive committee. He has spoken at numerous workforce events, national and local conferences and provides consulting services to organizations looking to access public workforce training dollars available. He currently serves as an advisor to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) on public policy issues.

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