The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) recently announced a $1,500,000 investment into 11 organizations across the Mississippi River Delta region through the new Delta Workforce Grant Program. The new program will help train the next generation of workforce, create jobs, and increase economic competitiveness throughout the Delta region by aligning workforce and economic development strategies, enhancing job training and re-employment opportunities, creating sustainable talent pipelines, and supporting workforce productivity through investments in innovative programming and technology.
The Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board, Inc. (NWTNWB) was awarded $150,000 under the initiative to fund a new program, EARN$TN - Expanding Apprenticeships in Rural Northwest Tennessee. EARN$TN will provide staffing to expand apprenticeship opportunities in nine counties of the rural Delta region – Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, and Weakley. “Through registered apprenticeships, employers can build their own talent pipeline and have a highly-skilled workforce by offering on-the-job and instructional training that meets their unique needs” says Jennifer Bane, Executive Director of the NWTNWB. By enhancing employee loyalty, increasing productivity, and improving the bottom line, and thus reducing employee turnover, apprenticeships are often the solution for high turnover, an aging but skilled workforce, or challenges of keeping up with industry changes. Under the new EARN$TN program, the NWTNWB’s Business Services staff will serve as “subject matter experts” and will assist employers in development of registered apprenticeships, including an in-depth review of the process and assistance with writing standards and arranging for academic training. Assistance with job descriptions, identifying associated knowledge, skills, abilities, and training options, wage information, and other relevant data for development of apprenticeship standards will also be provided.
Employers who choose to establish a registered apprenticeship will also receive assistance with access to funds for employers and jobseekers for classroom and/or on-the-job training, work experience, and supportive services, recruitment efforts to identify qualified candidates through the American Job Centers (AJCs) and high schools, as well as promotions on social media, including Facebook Live Streams with employers explaining the benefits of employment with their company. Further, with agreement of the employer, a more intensive marketing and pre-apprenticeship training program may be developed and modeled after the successful Registered Electrical Apprenticeship Preparation (REAP) program, a partnership with Amteck, LLC, a commercial design/build electrical construction company located in Dyersburg, TN with a Registered Apprenticeship for Electricians. The REAP model includes an aggressive employer-driven awareness campaign with the employer traveling to high schools to “showcase” their apprenticeship, including an overview of the occupation, employer expectations, working conditions, and wages. Those who were interested in further exploring a career as an Electrician were invited to an on-site orientation – “Shock & Awe!” day. With assessments and observations, Amteck was able to determine aptitude and interest and those completing the orientation were invited to a two-week Pre-Apprenticeship Training that included a series of classroom and hands-on work experiences. Amteck covered all cost of the Showcases and Shock & Awe Day and partial funding of the Pre-Apprenticeship Training, with the NWTNWB and American Job Centers funding the remainder, plus supportive services and wages.