Feature Story: Workforce Development Programs – The Recipe For Success

By Jenny Vickers
From the January/February 2014 issue

A well-educated, highly skilled workforce has become the most important ingredient to strengthen economies and ensure a high quality of life. In this feature, Business Facilities examines several state workforce development programs that are rising to the top.

One of the biggest challenges facing the workforce right now isn’t lack of jobs; it’s the lack of necessary skills to fill the jobs now available in this new knowledge-based economy. A primary focus for those in workforce development is to bridge the gap between employers and potential employees, addressing the issues of skills training and talent building.

Across the country, workforce development has risen to the top of many state economic development agendas. This is because worker training programs can make huge social and economic impacts. If workers are trained with 21st century skills it can make individuals competitive in the global economy and this helps drive economic growth.

In this report, we’ll take a close look at innovative worker development and education programs that have been recipes for success for local economic development agencies and public and private training providers. While these programs vary from state to state, they have in common the goal of helping ensure that skill sets are matching employer expectations, particularly in high-tech industries, in order to get people back to work.


Alabama is home to award-winning workforce training initiatives that are preparing the next generation for the innovative, highly skilled jobs of tomorrow.

AIDT, Alabama’s workforce training program, debuted in 1971, and it has become a key advantage in the state’s efforts to recruit new businesses, particularly manufacturers. During 2013 alone, AIDT delivered recruitment, screening and training services for 159 companies, representing 29,286 new jobs in Alabama.

AL Maritime Training Center
The new $10-million Maritime Training Center, pictured above, is expected to train more than 2,000 new workers over the next few years for several shipbuilding companies in Alabama.

“All AIDT services are offered at no cost to the company and potential employees and in the 42 years AIDT has been in existence we have remained flexible,” said Ed Castile, Director of AIDT. “Each new or expanding project is a custom developed program to fit the exact job specifics and ensures the new hire has the job ready skills required.”

AIDT has helped Alabama attract major manufacturers, such as Mercedes, which has utilized the program since selecting Alabama as its first U.S. production site in 1993. Today, Mercedes continues to expand its partnership with the state. In December 2013, Mercedes broke ground on its new 900,000-square-foot parts logistic center that will employ 600 workers. With the addition of its C-Class production line, the number could grow to about 1,000 and may increase again in 2015, when the company plans to add a 5th vehicle to its lineup.

Honda, Hyundai and Toyota also employ thousands of workers at their Alabama plants, and they have each cited AIDT as an important factor in their decision to settle in the state. In 1999, AIDT constructed a $30 million, 62,000-square-foot Honda Training Center in Lincoln—replete with classrooms and assembly line replicas—to lure the auto manufacturer.

“Honda Motor Manufacturing of Alabama named AIDT as not only a significant part of their decision to move to Alabama, but AIDT has also continued to play a huge role in each of their expansions in their 10 plus years in Alabama,” said Castile.

AIDT’s latest examples of success include the new Maritime Training Center in South Alabama and the newly developed Robot Technology Park in North Alabama.

The $10 million Maritime Training Center is expected to train more than 2,000 new workers in the next few years for several shipbuilding companies based there. One of those firms, Austral USA, an Australian shipbuilder, just received a $5 billion contract from the U.S. Navy to construct 10 new warships.

In August 2012, Austal entered into a five-year, $5 million agreement that will help it to continue its workforce expansion efforts, called the Phase V Agreement. As part of the agreement, the company also will receive employee training services from AIDT. Once the overall expansion is complete, total employment at the Mobile complex is expected to reach approximately 4,600 people.

According to Don Keeler, vice president of human resources Austal USA, Austal wouldn’t have been able to expand its workforce so quickly without the training programs at the AIDT’s Maritime Training Center.

“They know what they are doing and they are good at it,” said Keeler.

At the mammoth 60,000-square-foot Maritime training center, not only are Austal workers learning how to build the company’s Joint High Speed Vessels and littoral combat ships for the U.S. Navy, there is also a steady flow of students that go on to work for other companies in the region. 89 percent of students that complete training at AIDT’s Maritime Training Center receive job offers. The facility also provides post-employment training for skills enhancement and a special program to train and certify A-class welders in the workforce.

The Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) represents a leap into the future for Alabama’s worker training efforts. The project is a collaboration between Alabama’s worker training agency AIDT, the Alabama Community College System and the world’s leading robotics companies.

AL Robotics Tech Park
Alabama’s new Robotics Technology Park (RTP, Phase 1 pictured above) is a collaboration between AIDT, the state’s community college system and some of the world’s leading robotics companies.

“The Alabama Robotic Technology Park is an invaluable asset that has made a tremendous impact on Alabama’s economic development efforts,” said Castile. “The Alabama RTP is quite simply a dynamic approach to developing new technology and training workers in robotics and automation.”

The RTP is considered one of the world’s most innovative and futuristic training centers. At the facility, workers from manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda and Navistar train on the latest equipment from the world’s top industrial robot makers and automation software firms.

The 60,000-square-foot Phase 1 building, called the Robotic Maintenance Training Center, opened in November 2010. In it, trainers from top industrial robots companies teach technicians how to work on automation equipment. The facility houses three dozen industrial robots and features an automated welding lab and an automated manufacturing line that operates to the strains of “Sweet Home Alabama.”

The 43,000-square-foot Phase 2 building, named the Advanced Technology Research and Development Center, is home to four companies that are testing cutting-edge robotics/automation technology. The building has a test track for unmanned vehicles designed for military applications such as clearing mines and for civilian uses including first response.

Groundbreaking on the Phase 3 building, the Innovation and Entrepreneurial Center, is tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2014. It will be a location where companies can build and adapt manufacturing lines and processes with robots and automation for new uses.

Today, the RTP has partnerships with the world’s leading industrial robotics companies, as well as automakers and their suppliers. It has a learning program for students at Calhoun Community College and has recently launched a mobile unit to demonstrate robotics. This mobile unit will be utilized for training as well outreach, making stops at high schools, community colleges and other locales. Nearly 30,000 school kids from across the state have visited the Robotic Training Lab since its introduction this past June.

Overall, AIDT training programs have shown tremendous success in upgrading the technology skills of Alabama’s workers and prepare them for the in-demand jobs of tomorrow. Since the agency was founded in 1971, it has assisted more than 3,150 companies and trained more than 553,000 workers, an average of nearly 13,500 a year.

“With new companies moving to and existing companies expanding in Alabama, AIDT is continuously upgrading its skill set as a training organization,” said Castile. “By staying on top of new technologies and advanced production processes, AIDT is able to keep producing a highly skilled, well-trained workforce and keep our clients safe, productive and profitable. We will continue to find ways to be innovative in our approach to training, developing and recruiting the workforce these industries require.”


Business Facilities magazine has ranked Louisiana’s FastStart as one of the top workforce development programs in the nation. The program, which is run by Louisiana Economic Development (LED), was launched in 2008 to help attract and develop workers for new projects.

LED FastStart aligns with top manufacturing and service industries and provides—at no cost—a single, comprehensive source for delivering a well-trained workforce from day one for expanding employers in the state. To qualify, companies must be within Louisiana’s target industries and manufacturers must create a net of at least 15 new direct jobs and service industries a net of at least 50 new direct jobs.

Since January 2008—despite the fact that Louisiana was coming out of hurricane recovery and entering into the national recession—the state has seen growth of more than 50,000 new private sector jobs to date.

Louisiana has attracted major projects, such as IBM’s 800-job technology center in Baton Rouge; two headquarters expansions by CenturyLink in Monroe that are creating more than 1,100 new direct jobs; a 675-job, nearly $1 billion project by Benteler Steel/Tube in Shreveport to produce oil and gas tubular goods; $16 billion to $21 billion gas-to-liquids and ethane cracker project by Sasol Ltd. in the Lake Charles area that will result in more than 7,000 new direct and indirect jobs, and a similar number of construction jobs.

“In these and many other projects, LED FastStart became a critical advantage in Louisiana winning these highly competitive projects over sites in other states and nations,” said Stephen Moret, Secretary, Louisiana Economic Development.

Early on in 2009, Louisiana convinced Gardner Denver Inc.—a Fortune 1000 pump and compressors manufacturer—to reconsider its decision to close a Monroe, La. site where they employed 71 people. They were so impressed by what FastStart could do to improve the efficiency of their operations, that Gardner Denver closed a much larger Wisconsin plant and kept the Louisiana plant open—expanding it to about 300 jobs, including contract workers.

The company’s then-CEO, Barry Pennypacker, told analysts in the first quarter after the transition that the move to Louisiana already was building greater profitability for the company.

“And that’s the kind of story we hear again and again from executives,” Moret said. “They find that they’re often able to begin commercial operations for a new facility or expansion sooner that expected because FastStart has been so successful at ramping up a trained, qualified workforce in Louisiana from day one.”

Here’s what some LED FastStart clients are saying about their experience in Louisiana:

“Life without FastStart becomes very challenging,” said Kevin Mitchell, Sector Vice President for Production Operations and Site Manager, Northrop Grumman, Lake Charles, La. “We would not be able to meet a lot of our objectives without those types of skills coming out of FastStart. I could not come up with a complaint if I tried: It was outstanding support.”

“When you have a demand, when you have a need, when you’ve just spent millions of dollars expanding your manufacturing facility—or, if you’re in the process of building and putting a new system online—you need people, and you need qualified people quickly,” said Ray Peters, Vice President of Human Resources and Marketing, Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. LLC, Alexandria, La. “It’s all about responsiveness. FastStart has been extremely responsive to our needs, has helped us certainly along the way, and are willing to be creative in terms of working with us to get the people that we need to staff our manufacturing facilities.”

To date, LED has trained more than 18,000 individual workers in the state through the program and delivered 226,000 hours of training to the more than 100 companies served.

FastStart’s training and technology professionals build a thoroughly customized plan for each client, getting to know the company from the inside out. And that approach, along with world-class technology and tools, has paid great dividends for Louisiana and the companies that are expanding here.

Some other success stories include Gameloft, Benteler Steel/Tube, GE Capital and IBM.

Paris-based Gameloft sought a second U.S. site to complement its New York digital game development studio. Louisiana’s best-in-the-nation Digital Interactive Media and Software Development Incentive intrigued the company, which began looking at New Orleans. But the company didn’t know if Louisiana could generate enough game development talent for a 150-job studio.

In advance of the site decision, LED FastStart quickly completed an online recruiting campaign, attracted 1,700 applications and provided résumés for 700 qualified candidates—making Gameloft’s decision to choose New Orleans an easy one.

Benteler Steel/Tube, the German business unit of Austria-based Benteler International AG, selected Shreveport, La. for a new 1.35 million-square-foot manufacturing facility that will build state-of-the-art tubular goods for oil and gas production companies in North America. Workforce solutions were key to Louisiana winning the project.

In addition to proposing a customized blueprint for attracting 675 employees for Benteler’s Shreveport project, FastStart—along with Louisiana’s Community and Technical College System and local economic development partners—will oversee development of a new $22 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at nearby Bossier Parish Community College.

That center will provide manufacturing technology training for Benteler workers first, then support training for other manufacturers in Northwest Louisiana.

Through this integrated center of excellence approach, Louisiana is developing a similar $20 million advanced manufacturing training facility for Sasol in Southwest Louisiana, along with a $3.7 million Aircraft MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) Center of Excellence—both at SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles.

Training at the aircraft center of excellence will be supported by FastStart as it helps AAR Corp. hire 500 additional aviation technicians for a 750-employee MRO facility at Chennault International Airport. The center also will assist Northrop Grumman and other aviation employers in the region.

FastStart also works closely with software development firms—such as GE Capital, which is creating a 300-job technology center in New Orleans and the 800-job IBM Technology Center already open in Baton Rouge and moving to a permanent office in 2015 at a new urban development under construction.

For GE Capital’s New Orleans technology center, the state committed $5 million over 10 years to higher education solutions that would increase the pipeline of software development and information technology talent in the city.

Leveraging those funds, LED FastStart and the University of New Orleans are partnering on a software development apprentice program that the university forecasts will increase its computer science program with continual curriculum input from GE Capital—from fewer than 300 students to 600 students.

In Baton Rouge, IBM will partner with Louisiana State University on a 10-year, $14 million initiative that holds the potential to triple the number of computer science graduates and place LSU in the Top 10 to 15 programs nationally, by the number of undergraduate degrees awarded each year.

FastStart will serve as a linchpin in delivering that increased software development and technology talent to IBM and other employers in the Baton Rouge region.

“Increasingly, LED FastStart has become not simply a custom recruiting and training provider, but a flexible workforce provider with considerable bandwidth that reaches deep into Louisiana’s higher education system to provide comprehensive solutions,” said Moret.


Pennsylvania’s workforce training programs and world-class colleges and universities are helping to drive university and business collaboration, helping the state attract new growth. Under Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s leadership, the $9.75 billion of state funding provided to Pennsylvania’s school districts this fiscal year, represents the largest amount of state funding in Pennsylvania history.

“Every dollar invested in our students is a dollar invested in our commonwealth’s future,” said Governor Corbett. “Nothing is more critical to ensure the economic strength of Pennsylvania than the development of a well-educated and trained workforce that is built to advance.”

Current workforce training development programs and initiatives include the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania (WEDnetPA), the Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program, Industry Partnerships, JobGatewaySM, the Keystone Works program and the new Energy Training Center.

Assembler Okie Kozminski shows Gov. Tom Corbett gear-housing assemblies during a tour of ASI Technologies Inc. in Montgomery County, with President John Cross (left) and CEO Barney Berlinger. The visit celebrated the one-millionth trainee of the WEDnetPA program.

In April 2013, WEDnetPA celebrated a significant milestone—the training of its one-millionth employee. Funding provided through this program goes to businesses to provide workers with basic skills and IT training. The program works through a network of 30 diverse partners including state universities, community colleges and other educational partners throughout the state.

WEDnetPA uses existing staff at partner institutions for a cost-effective and efficient program delivery system, with 90 cents of every program dollar going directly to employee training. Since 1999, the program has helped more than 17,000 companies, of all sizes, train incumbent employees.

“Participating companies in the WEDnetPA program report increased efficiency and product quality, have avoided layoffs and maximized opportunities for growth and expansion, while employees who were trained were more likely to be promoted, saw their wages increased and showed improved motivation and productivity,” said Steven Kratz, Director of Communications for the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program provides financial aid grants to meet workforce needs. So far, grants have been given to over 1,200 students, including veterans, enrolled in certification programs in high-demand industries such as energy, advanced materials and diversified manufacturing, and agriculture and food production.

The Industry Partnership and Keystone Works program brings together job seekers with companies that have open positions. The program provides opportunities for a job seeker to work for a potential employer for 24 hours a week in a hands-on, learning environment to see if both are a good fit with one another. The program is especially beneficial to the unemployed since they are able to maintain their unemployment compensation (UC) benefits during the eight-week trial employment period.

In the summer of 2013, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett launched a free, user-friendly job-matching website, JobGatewaySM, to help Pennsylvanians looking for work find opportunities from real-time postings and find training for positions in which they have interest.

“Connecting people who are looking for jobs with real-time job openings strengthens our economy, our workforce and Pennsylvania’s future in the new global economy,” Governor Corbett said.

Employers registered in JobGatewaySM can post jobs, create customized questionnaires to help them connect directly with and screen candidates, and subscribe to candidate recommendations via e-mail alerts; and the system incorporates labor market information for employers, providing wage data and employment trends to assist in the talent search process.

In November 2013, the Department of Labor & Industry and the Community College of Philadelphia announced the creation of the college’s new Energy Training Center to offer post-secondary career, certificate and academic programs in the energy industry. The Energy Training Center is designed to serve as an education and training partner for the energy sector in the Philadelphia region, which includes refineries and other companies in oil, gas, water and renewable energy industries.

These investments in Pennsylvania’s workforce are paying off.

In January 2014, Governor Corbett joined Comcast for a historic announcement that will drive economic progress and transform Philadelphia’s skyline with the construction of a $1.2 billion, 59-story tower that will become the dedicated home for the company’s growing workforce of technologists, engineers and software architects.

“This exciting project would not be possible without the support of the commonwealth and Governor Corbett, who is a true and committed partner in driving Pennsylvania’s growth,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation.

The new ‘Comcast Innovation and Technology Center’ will generate $2.75 billion in total economic impact within Pennsylvania and support more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase. The direct and indirect ongoing impact is projected to create nearly 4,000 permanent jobs in Pennsylvania.

“I believe that it is our people—their creativity, ingenuity, talents and skills—who drive companies like Comcast to make Pennsylvania home,” said Governor Corbett.

In December 2013, Governor Corbett announced that Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), a global information technology services company, will establish a new delivery center in the Strip District in the City of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County that is intended to create at least 500 new technology jobs over the next three years. Gary Budzinski, the Executive Vice President and General Manager for CSC’s Global Infrastructure Services business, specifically cited local IT talent and technically trained college grads a reason for locating in Pittsburgh.

“As part of our strategic transformation, we are developing a next-generation IT workforce to meet our clients’ demand for cyber security, cloud computing and application modernization services,” said Budzinski. “With a mix of local IT talent and technically trained college graduates, Pittsburgh provides an excellent recruiting pool for us to build a next-generation workforce. Governor Corbett was an instrumental partner in helping us to establish this delivery center in Pittsburgh.”

In June 2013, Governor Corbett announced that Flowserve Corporation, a global manufacturer and supplier of flow management systems in the oil and gas industry, is relocating a portion of its out-of-state pump division operations to the Lehigh Valley, bringing 124 new jobs to the region.

To address Flowserve’s need for a larger, more modern facility the company will relocate a key segment of its Engineered Pumps Division, located in New Jersey, to a facility in Hanover Township, Northampton County. Flowserve will be moving teams from its product, application and service engineering, as well as a portion of its finance organization, all providing support to other organizations around the globe.

“Support of the Governor’s Action Team and the Northampton County Industrial Development Authority has been instrumental in making this move a success,” said Tom Pajonas, Chief Operating Officer for Flowserve. “We look forward to growing our organization and taking advantage of the strong technical base as we attract skilled positions from the schools and universities in the region.”

According to Kratz, tremendous progress has also been made at the regional level. In northwestern Pennsylvania, educators, industry and government are collaborating to implement a welding certificate program to address a shortage of skilled welders in their region. And in the Lehigh Valley, the PA Department of Community & Economic Development partnered with the Manufacturers Resource Center, a nationally recognized leader in manufacturing assistance, to launch a ‘Skill Up’ initiative to help change the image of manufacturing and encourage careers in modern manufacturing, which is technology-driven and offers family-sustaining jobs.

“These examples, combined with all of the governor’s efforts to more strategically align education and training with job openings, will place Pennsylvania a step ahead of the competition as a top performing state and global leader that is built to advance,” said Kratz.


Florida has long been a significant trade gateway between the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2011, Workforce Florida, the state’s business-led workforce strategy and policy board, launched a major Global Trade Initiative to strengthen the state’s global trade and logistics workforce and help Florida compete for international trade.

By 2013, the $2 million initiative—supported by Quick Response Training (QRT) funds—has helped companies train more than 1,800 new and existing port and air cargo workers. The funds also have helped to create Career Academies in 15 Florida high schools to provide students with business-led training that often lead to industry-recognized certifications.

QRT provides matching grant funds for customized training to eligible companies. A major strength of the program is that it allows employers unlimited ability to decide what training is needed, where it is provided, who provides it and how. This benefit made it possible for each employer that participated in the Global Trade Initiative to tailor the training their employees received to the specific needs of their company.

“Global trade and logistics employers have always had to place constant emphasis on training to stay competitive,” said Workforce Florida Senior Vice President of Global Talent Innovation Andra Cornelius, CEcD. “But the ongoing evolution of the industry itself has increased and added nuance to the training needs of its employers. Custom training solutions for these businesses are critical to Florida’s ability to establish itself as a stronger, more agile and efficient global trade hub.”

The benefits of employer-driven training extend to the employees who receive it. Seaonus, an international logistics company, received matching QRT grants to help the company access critical courses in stevedoring and rigging—both key for cocking, lifting and transporting freight.

The multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal, slated for 2015 completion, will have major positive implications on Florida’s global trade industry. Continued investment in workforce training positions both the industry and the entire state to capitalize on the increase in trade capacity the expansion is expected to facilitate. Air cargo—the most regulated trade and logistics modality—has a stronghold in South Florida. The Global Trade Initiative supported training to supplement Transportation Security Administration (TSA) certification, a constant air-cargo training need as well as courses offering higher level training for managers and leaders.

Many of South Florida’s air cargo companies are small businesses, making them ideal candidates for Workforce Florida’s Incumbent Worker Training program. Like QRT, IWT provides matching funds to companies to help provide training to existing employees. However, IWT appeals to small businesses because only one full-time employee is needed for a business to qualify.

QRT’s support and success spans across key Florida industries, often touching employers in Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology. Since 2000, 485 businesses in targeted sectors throughout the state have been approved for QRT grants to train more than 105,000 employees with more than 90,000 of those workers having completed training. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the program received double the amount of state funding ($12 million compared to $6 million last fiscal year).

In May 2013, Workforce Florida announced a $2 million QRT initiative dedicated to helping the Advanced Manufacturing industry’s employers increase competitiveness through customized training.

“Workforce Florida’s intent for new QRT funding and the Advanced Manufacturing Consortia Grant is purposeful, deliberate assistance to support a sector that is critical to strengthening the overall economy, increasing exports and, in particular, supporting small businesses,” said Debbie McMullian, who directs the Quick Response Training Program. “This grant was created with small manufacturers, even those creating just one or two jobs, in mind.”

QRT often is offered alongside state tax incentives provided by Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development entity—to companies considering relocating to Florida. For instance, QRT recently was included as a component of an offer to Verizon to meet training needs after it consolidated part of its financial operations in Lake Mary, FL. Ultimately, Verizon was awarded $1.6 million in QRT funds to train a projected 750 new employees over a two-year span, with 300 anticipated to be hired by the end of 2014.

“QRT has demonstrated its ability to address key industries’ current and future talent needs, both individually and collectively,” Cornelius said. “Workforce Florida understands that, in order to advance an entire industry, the specific needs that make individual employers competitive have to be addressed in training, and that is what QRT does.”


Georgia is home to one of the top-ranked workforce development programs in the country. Known as Quick Start, the program has provided customized workforce training to qualified businesses in Georgia for more than 40 years.

Today, the program is one of the state’s key assets for supporting new and expanding industries. It has helped to attract big name firms such as Baxter International, Caterpillar, Kia, Starbucks and more.

The state-funded program, which is part of the Technical College System of Georgia, is offered as an incentive to companies that will create 15 or more jobs within 12 months. Quick Start trains potential employees so that when a company is ready to open its doors, it will have a workforce that is trained and ready to go. The program also helps companies save money, since the training is offered free-of-charge.

“For companies, the quality of the workforce is usually at the top of the list, it’s not number two,” said Rodger Brown, Executive Director for Marketing and Strategic Media at Georgia Quick Start. “All new and growing companies need to make sure they have the best employees with the right skills. Quick Start gives them the experience and knowledge and skills they would have gotten working somewhere.”

The program was cited as one of the top reasons Caterpillar, Inc. chose Athens for the site of its new $200 million manufacturing facility. On October 31, 2013, Caterpillar celebrated the grand opening of its new 1-million-square foot facility which will produce the company’s small tractors and excavators.

“We’ve experienced a phenomenal partnership from the Quick Start program,” said Mary Bell, VP of Caterpillar BCP Division, at the grand opening event. “It’s been critical to our success. Quick Start provides training for our workforce to build the high quality products we are known for. Quick Start has been instrumental in developing and delivering the training for our manufacturing operations group. It’s also helped build the camaraderie and the spirit and pride in workmanship with our new technician force in building CAT products.”

Quick Start’s training process is unique for each company it works with. For Caterpillar, every employee was provided hands-on skills training with actual Caterpillar parts. Training takes place in an Athens Technical College building that was renovated to meet Caterpillar’s specific training needs, including a simulated production line.

“If you put people through trainings in these real environments that simulate manufacturing, they come out with the skills as if they’ve been employed at a company doing that,” said Brown. “This is because we design our training to fit the company’s exact needs. A company can come to Georgia and know that we have talented people and can train them.

By 2018 the company plans to employ 1,400 people, and Quick Start will continue to train those prospective employees.

“A lot of states use the word customized training but it’s a one-time relationship; once money runs out everyone goes on their way,” said Brown. “Quick Start is successful because we partner with the company and our goal is to become part of the operation. We don’t keep a meter running and leave when it runs out.”

Georgia Bioscience Training Center
Artist rendering of the Georgia BioScience Training Center. The Center will be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to train Baxter employees, but also contains extra capacity to accommodate training for additional biotech companies Georgia plans to attract to the area.

With another 2,800 full-time jobs being created among U.S. suppliers and at other companies, this project represents the largest growth of new jobs in Georgia since the Kia Motors manufacturing facility was built.

Another Quick Start success story is Baxter International, a major pharmaceutical company that is now in the process of building a $1 billion new bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing center just east of metro Atlanta.

Baxter, an American health care company that primarily focuses on products to treat hemophilia, kidney disease, immune disorders and other chronic and acute medical conditions, cites Quick Start as one of the key determinants in choosing Georgia for its new manufacturing center.

“When Georgia competes, Georgia doesn’t compete against North Carolina, or Illinois or Ohio, Georgia competes against Singapore, against China, against Costa Rica,” said Valery Gallagher, Director, U.S. State Government Affairs, Baxter Healthcare Corporation at the Georgia Chamber’s Red Carpet Tour event. “And the uniqueness that Georgia brings is the Quick Start program. The Quick Start program was one of the key determinants. As we look at what the different site locations bring, Quick Start was an enormous part of our decision-making process.”

Baxter introduced the first system for separating and storing plasma in 1941. In the next five years, the company expects to hire 1,500 workers to process plasma for a variety of Baxter products. To prepare Baxter’s highly specialized team, Quick Start will operate the Georgia BioScience Training Center to be built by the State of Georgia near the site.

“This facility is similar to other biotech training centers in other states, but this center is going to have space allocated for Baxter training and significant space that’s available for attracting new biotech companies to area,” said Brown. “It will be a state-of-the art facility with equipment and laboratory environments for any type of biotech process.”

Over the years, Quick Start has supported the creation and retention of thousands of jobs in Georgia. In 2013 alone, the program directly impacted the creation or retention of 12,428 jobs in the state. It also has helped the state stay on the leading edge of emerging technologies.

“We have 45 years of experience and no other state has a resource like Quick Start,” said Brown. “We take our exposure to new technology implemented in advanced manufacturing and put it in place at local technical colleges. For example, we just got a 3D printer that allows us to build models simulations of production environments and we have a full HD office in Atlanta where we can shoot trainings. In this way, we are helping our workers develop the critical and necessary advanced skills needed for employment now and for the future.”


In the greater Tucson region of Arizona, a federally funded workforce system is helping to develop training programs to meet the needs of industry, while helping get dislocated employees back to work.

Pima County One-Stop, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), connects job seekers—youth, adults, veterans and dislocated workers—to a network of employment, training and educational programs in Pima County. By offering high quality services, referrals and training, One-Stop bridges the gap between employer and job seeker by connecting qualified applicants with job openings.

According to Jim Mize, director of Pima County One-Stop, the program also receives funding from its Board of Supervisors that give general fund money equal to or greater than the money One-Stop gets from the federal government, which he says is between $5 and $6 million a year.

“All of our grants are high-tech, high-wage oriented in order to build the economy,” said Mize. “We are involved in training workers in highly specialized fields such as hybrid technology, biodiesel and one of the latest initiatives, a training program to develop precision machinists.”

Mize works directly with employers to determine their needs and to build programs around those needs.

“We survey industry here in Tucson and go into sectors and find out shortages and needs and develop training programs at the local community college,” said Mize. “We use the employers to develop training programs that industry needs.”

About 18 months ago, Mize and his team at One-Stop conducted interviews with 22 companies that revealed a critical shortage of precision machinists. The survey found that current community-college training was not producing viable workers and the companies were relying heavily on an aging workforce.

As a result of the interviews, a partnership formed with the machine shops, the One-Stop, Desert View High School and Pima Community College focused on revamping machinist training at Pima College and establishing a pipeline of students to enter the field.

“It took several months, but we revised the curriculum to put classes in a certain sequence so students can learn in school and on the job at the same time,” said Mize. “So we put together a cohort for this new curriculum and the idea was to start a pipeline right now with high school students.”

Upon completion of Career Technical Education in machining at the high school, 11 students were placed in paid summer internships in the industry. The internships were initially funded and operated through the Pima County One-Stop.

After two months of hands-on work experience, the students were hired by the companies and simultaneously enrolled in a revised certificate program at PCC. A second-tier curriculum is now being developed to offer National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certification with the PCC Associate’s Degree in Machine Tool Technology.

“The program is working really well, but it’s a lot of hard work,” said Mize. “It’s keeping the kids interested, the employers engaged. We’re going to start a second cohort group this May, our target is 15. It’s been a very successful program.”

Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (TREO), the lead economic development agency for the greater Tucson area, is now looking to build upon the success of the One-Stop program, but on a broader scale.

The agency just announced it is in the process of developing new recommendations and strategies to fill talent gaps that exist in the market. It is conducting interviews with both large employers and smaller, high-tech firms and expects to release its recommendations in April of this year.

“We are asking similar questions as we did in the One-Stop program,” said Michael Guymon, Vice President of Regional Development for TREO. “We are taking that example and giving a much broader emphasis to it to determine not only the number of vacant positions that exist in the region but what those specific skills needs are so we can go back to the community college and university of Arizona and say look there is a disconnect between education community and the industry and we want to work to close that gap.”

The recommendations and strategies will update TREO’s 2006 Economic Blueprint, which identified the region’s strengths in aerospace, bioscience, solar and transportation and logistics and outlined a goal to secure and shape the region’s growth in these focus areas.

“The original Blueprint helped TREO to identify the area’s driving industries, strengths and growth opportunities, while this update focuses on how to best take advantage of emerging opportunities in a new economic landscape,” said Guymon.