Workforce Development Training & Talent Acquisition

Workforce training is still job one for locations vying to compete for high-tech projects, but talent acquisition—a.k.a. recruiting—now is a critical component for success.

By Jenny Vickers
From the May/June 2018 Issue

We’ve been telling you for several years now that workforce training is Job One for economic development agencies across the country. Just about everyone is doing their best to close the yawning skills gap that is eating away at America’s status as the leading high-tech powerhouse. Locations far and wide have gotten the memo: an educational system that graduates students with STEM skills is essential to create an available workforce that can attract today’s high-tech projects. Nationwide, we need hundreds of thousands of STEM-oriented grads to meet the needs of emerging high-tech growth sectors.

However, in order to clearly define today’s Job One priority, we have to expand our definition to include workforce training and talent attraction. The latter means not only convincing home-grown grads with stem skills to stick around and deploy their knowledge locally, but also potential high-tech workers from around the country that your location is a place they’d like to live as well as work.

Quality of life, a quaint phrase that predates the digital age, suddenly has surged back into relevance: the skilled young people entering the workforce need to be certain they really want to live in your town before they choose to work there. So it’s no surprise that talent attraction is a prominent feature you’ll find in our annual tour of workforce development efforts. Locations ahead of the curve are recruiting as well as training their 21st century workers. Turn the page and tour the leaders.


Louisiana features the gold standard of workforce development programs—LED FastStart—which has been ranked as the No. 1 state program among Workforce Training Leaders for eight consecutive years by Business Facilities magazine.

workforce training
Chris Fontenot trains students on PTEC operations at SOWELA Technical
Community College. (Photo: Louisiana Economic Development)

LED FastStart designs comprehensive recruiting, screening, training and orientation solutions that enable a company’s new employees to be fully prepared on Day One when operations are launched or expanded.

In November 2017, Virginia-based DXC Technology announced it is establishing a 2,000-job Digital Transformation Center in the Central Business District of New Orleans, the largest technology project announced in Louisiana to date. DXC plans to hire 300 IT and business enterprise professionals during 2018 and ramp up to 2,000 jobs by 2025, supporting an annual payroll exceeding $133 million.

To meet that workforce demand, LED FastStart is working with the company to get its specialized team up and running. To meet the company’s long-term workforce demand, the state is funding a $25 million higher education initiative to expand the number of degrees awarded annually in computer science, management and STEM-related studies.

“DXC cultivates an environment of continuous learning that is critical to the success of our people and the company,” said Mike Lawrie, chairman, president and CEO of DXC Technology. “We are committed to providing employees with experiential, training and educational opportunities that advance job skills and career development. Our partnership with local colleges and universities will be important to our success and will increase the number of graduates and skilled professionals in technology-related fields in the city and across the region.”

LED FastStart also is providing customized training solutions to fill the workforce needs resulting from the latest expansion of Plastipak Packaging. In June 2017, the company, which manufactures and distributes rigid plastic packaging for some of the world’s largest consumer products companies, announced a $15 million expansion of its manufacturing facility in Pineville, adding 10 new jobs to its existing 263-job workforce. This is the second major expansion to Plastipak’s facility since 2015, when the company announced a $9 million investment for the addition of three new production lines.

“Plastipak’s new investment in its Pineville facility is a testament to the economic climate and highly skilled workforce here in Louisiana,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Louisiana’s business climate is one in which companies can not only make an initial investment, but also thrive and make continued reinvestments and expansions, just like Plastipak is doing today.”

LED FastStart is a turnkey workforce solution for new or expanding facilities, so workers hit the ground running with the specific skills, training and company orientation they need to be successful. The innovative program uses an array of customized video and digital platforms and graphic material to provide real-time training tools and feedback.

Services are designed and customized exclusively for each company, not only at the start of training but throughout the process, adjusting to evolving company needs quickly and efficiently.

“The global economy is ever-changing, growing more complex at every turn,” said Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson. “It’s more important than ever to provide efficient workforce solutions for new companies entering the Louisiana economy and established employers who are expanding. With LED FastStart, that’s exactly what we do.”

Currently, LED FastStart is working on 62 active projects across Louisiana, in sectors such as traditional manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, information technology and warehousing. Since the program was launched in 2008, it has served more than 100 client companies, trained more than 27,000 individuals and produced more than 423,000 hours of training.

“We continue to look ahead for ways to improve what is already the nation’s best program,” said Pierson. “Our newest tool for building the talent pipeline in Louisiana is a work-based learning pilot program.”

LED is developing a connection portal to promote internships, apprenticeships and co-op opportunities that will bridge people from classroom settings into careers. “For those working toward degrees or certificates at universities, colleges and community and technical colleges, LED’s work-based learning program will connect them with opportunities for real-world experience and accelerate their work readiness—hopefully leading to job opportunities with the companies where they do their student training,” said Pierson.

The program also will serve as a central clearinghouse about internships, apprenticeships and co-ops for colleges and universities, students and employers. Students will be able to explore available opportunities and companies will be able to find people interested in those opportunities, all in one place.

Louisiana also has invested millions of dollars in university and community/ technical college programs throughout the state to help provide a pipeline of talent for major projects in key industries.

The $25 million higher education investment that helped secure the 2,000-job DXC Technology project was the latest in a long line of LED partnerships with Louisiana’s university systems and industry leaders. Technology firms including CSRA (now General Dynamic Information Technology) in Bossier City, CGI in Lafayette, GE Digital in New Orleans and IBM in Baton Rouge also attributed their Louisiana investment decisions in part based on the opportunity to collaborate with higher education campuses.

The state has put important higher education partnerships in place for the manufacturing sector. One example is the $22 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at Bossier Parish Community College, which is providing a pipeline of skilled workers for Benteler Steel/ Tube’s $975 million seamless steel tube mill and steel mini-mill, its first such facilities in the U.S.

The training center is equipped with specialized machinery bought by LED FastStart that mirrors Benteler’s actual production tooling. LED FastStart has a dedicated training staff at the center, where Benteler and additional industry experts collaborate to provide hands-on training. The training centers were built and designed to serve the continuing training needs of all regional manufacturers.

The University of New Orleans’ Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SWEAP), developed with GE Digital through LED support, received a Partnership Excellence award by the International Economic Development Council in their 2017 Excellence in Economic Development Awards. UNO also partners extensively with regional technology companies to support emerging industries like game development.

Near Lake Charles, SOWELA Technical Community College is using a $20 million state-financed facility to train workers for high-wage jobs at Sasol’s $11 billion ethane cracker complex. The SOWELA advanced manufacturing center also supports the expansion of campus process technology and instrumentation degree programs.

LED FastStart also has developed the Certification for Manufacturing (C4M) to aid companies with a significant need for workers with entry-level manufacturing skills. C4M is a streamlined path for students to develop the skills needed for entry-level work in manufacturing, one of Louisiana’s key industries. The state has nearly 3,000 companies in the manufacturing industries, supporting more than 134,000 jobs.

The C4M program is being taught in Louisiana high schools and community and technical colleges, using a 16-week curriculum that covers essential skills needed in the modern manufacturing environment.

“We know it’s critical to prepare our up-and-coming generation for careers in fields that will continue to be in high demand,” said Pierson. “That’s why we have developed partnerships with secondary and higher education institutions throughout our state. We also have launched two key online portals, Louisiana Job Connection and Louisiana Business Connection, to match employers with job seekers and to promote small business participation. Small business is an important sector, and the success of our projects is critical to their growth, too.”


Workforce development remains one of North Carolina’s highest priorities, recently reinforced by Governor Roy Cooper’s decision to launch NC Job Ready, a new business-led program to ensure workers gain access to the education and skills training they need.

Cooper’s initiative is built on three core principles: skills and education attainment so North Carolinians are ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow, employer leadership to remain relevant to evolving industry needs and local innovation to take great ideas and apply them statewide.

workforce training
The spotlight was on workforce training, as Gov. Roy Cooper recently
visited Wake Tech’s Northern Wake Campus. The governor took a tour
of hands-on training in skilled trades, including plumbing, HVAC and welding.

“Getting North Carolina job ready means helping people get the skills they need for better-paying jobs and then connecting businesses to those workers,” said Gov. Cooper. “An educated, well-trained workforce will strengthen North Carolina companies, attract new businesses and ensure we can adapt to a changing economy.”

In 2017, Infosys, a leading global technology consulting company headquartered in Bangalore, India, announced it has chosen North Carolina’s Research Triangle region for an $8.73 million innovation and technology hub.

In terms of employment, the Raleigh hub—expected to grow to 2,000 employees by 2021—is one of the largest economic development wins in Wake County’s history. Company executives said they were very impressed by all the various partners who came to the table to tell them about North Carolina and what it could offer.

Higher education, including both public and private schools, and both two-year and four-year institutions, was one of the state’s key selling points. “We found the academic ecosystem exceptional,” said Ravi Kumar, President and Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Infosys.

The state’s academic ecosystem consists of more than 50 four-year colleges and universities, among which are three Tier 1 research universities—North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. It also boasts a world class NC Community College System (NCCCS) with 58 colleges and nearly 700,000 students, making it the third-largest system of higher education in the United States.

Wake Technical Community College will partner with Infosys on workforce development for the Raleigh hub. The 72,000-student college has multiple campuses, including a new Research Triangle Park location focused on advanced technical programs and customized workforce training for corporations in Wake County.

North Carolina’s integrated workforce development system, known as NCWorks, provides services and expertise to support both job seekers and employers. NCWorks’ Incumbent Worker Training Grant program is helping to improve the skills of employees and the company’s competitiveness. The program reimburses companies for the cost of training their workers—employers can receive up to $10,000 per grant and up to a total of $60,000 from this program over the course of the company’s lifetime.

STP Ventures, a website design company and IT firm, had trouble finding an affordable way to train its employees until it applied for NCWorks’ Incumbent Worker Training Grant program through the Centralina Workforce Development Board.

“The training allowed us to increase our employee knowledge, which in turn increased comfort and confidence working with larger business,” said Patrick Wright, managing partner of STP Ventures. “Since the training, we have expanded into a new vertical, targeting larger companies than our client base prior to the training.”

The company was awarded grant funds for training two employees in five components of Cisco Network Devices, as well as troubleshooting and maintaining Cisco IP networks. Today, STP Ventures has been able to leverage its additional capability into a new line of service.

It recently landed the largest contract in the history of the company, and officials are excited about the potential to gain additional business. STP Ventures plans to market the skills its employees learned through the IWTG program and increase its revenue stream by becoming a more diversified company.

“We were very pleased with the assistance from the Centralina Workforce Development Board in educating us on what was available,” Wright said. “We appreciated in-person meetings and availability of staff, which many other programs did not offer.”

Hi-Wire Brewing of Asheville recently received approximately $11,000 from the Incumbent Worker Training Grant program to train and certify three workers in brewing technology, packaging and process technology, quality control, programmable logic controllers and stainless welding.

“The NCWorks program has allowed us to attract and retain talent, and our employees have demonstrated that our commitment to them is a two-way street and that they are top-notch at what they do for us,” said Adam Charnack, co-founder of Hi-Wire Brewing.

NCWorks also offers NCWorks Online—an online jobs portal that connects job seekers with employers as well as education and training opportunities. The online service complements a network of more than 80 NCWorks Career Centers located throughout the state, which provide counseling to job seekers and recruiting tools and consulting services to companies looking to expand their workforce.

One of the newest developments in North Carolina is the implementation of NCWorks Certified Career Pathways, education and training plans that help job seekers enter particular industries.

“These pathways are designed by employers in collaboration with the state’s workforce development and education professionals, and they outline in detail the education and skill requirements people must bring to the table to be successful in a given career,” said David Rhoades, Communications Director for the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Certified Career Pathways focus on matching worker preparation to employer needs in high-demand occupations. To date, 27 pathways have been certified in fields such as mechatronics and advanced manufacturing, health-care and hospitality.

The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) operates two additional workforce development programs: the North Carolina Customized Training Program, which is known as one of the nation’s leading workforce programs, and ApprenticeshipNC, a growing initiative to combine education with on-the-job training to meet the current and future needs of workers and businesses.

“Decades ago, North Carolina pioneered free and customized job training for companies new to the state and those already established here and experiencing job growth,” said Rhoades. “Community college technical training specialists work closely in collaboration with employers to build programs that are precisely tailored to the particular needs of a given company.”

For example, NCCCS partners with all four of GE Aviation’s plants, offering customized training and providing a pipeline of talent.

“The state and local communities in North Carolina value GE Aviation, and we value them,” said Colleen Athans, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation’s global supply chain. “We appreciate the consistent support we receive for our initiatives to advance our operations. Whether it’s improving infrastructure, partnering in an advanced training program or other assistance to launch something new—North Carolina always steps up.”

Over the past five years, GE Aviation has invested nearly $250 million in upgrades of its operations across the state. With more than 80 facilities around the world, GE Aviation chose North Carolina as home for its breakthrough technology for three key reasons: the state’s nimble manufacturing workforce, desirable quality of life and a business-friendly environment that has helped fuel the company’s success for more than three decades.

“Firms from around the world are attracted to North Carolina because of our flexible workforce training toolkit, and home-grown businesses know that they have numerous resources available to help them thrive,” said Rhoades.


Nevada’s Workforce Innovations for a New Nevada (WINN) is helping to arm employers with skilled employees. In just over a year, WINN has made more than $3 million in strategic investments of skill attainment and progression in the advanced manufacturing sector.

The program is administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), and is a coordinated effort with Nevada System of Higher Education, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation and Nevada companies. This fund makes strategic investments in industry partnerships to ensure that new and existing businesses in Nevada will be able to recruit and retain qualified employees.

GOED has facilitated funding for three flexible and custom training programs in community colleges to ensure qualified employees are available for Panasonic and Tesla at Gigafactory 1.

“Nevada is synonymous with nimble,” said Paul Anderson, executive director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). “We quickly worked with industry leaders Panasonic and Tesla to tailor and implement curricula for the creation of an advanced manufacturing talent pipeline for Gigafactory 1. That proven model is ready for companies big and small, across a variety of sectors, to meet their workforce needs.”

WINN also provides a pipeline of qualified workers to meet the increased demand of highly skilled individuals across the state.

For example, in Southern Nevada, WINN invested in an industry partnership that brings together the College of Southern Nevada, Clark County School District (CCSD) and local employers that will result in 500 people trained per year. This partnership includes a strategic investment in cutting edge technology and equipment in two CCSD CTE sites to accelerate the development of skills needed for jobs in a New Nevada.

In Northern Nevada, Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) pioneered a quality educational model built to meet the specific needs of manufacturers. The program is designed for maximum flexibility for both participants and employers and provides high-demand skills while allowing for multiple on-ramps to employment at varying skill levels. WINN funding ensures scholarships for over 600 trainees.

Also in north Nevada, WINN funds will now also be used to fund GOED-led Industry 4.0 which seeks to address the needs for the State of Nevada’s current and future employment which will be affected as manufacturing continues to become more advanced.

Through this effort, a core group of advanced manufacturers along with Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College will begin a phased approach to establish Nevada as a leader in the nation for Industry 4.0 Certifications that will be centered on advanced robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber security.

“It showcases to growth-oriented businesses that Nevada can adapt to changing needs driven by technological innovation,” said Anderson. “Our forward-looking strategy gives companies confidence their workforce in Nevada will be supported by a template for career pathway development, which integrates education, government and industry in a standardized process to ensure that workers have the skills they need to succeed in both the short- and long-term.”

GOED also has been spearheading an effort to create integrated, standardized, skill-based career pathway frameworks better known as Learn and Earn Advanced Career Pathway (LEAP). Drawing on best practices, essential elements of LEAP are “on and off ramps” in conjunction with smooth career transitions enabled by credit articulations, thus providing a “career highway” for life-long learning advancement.

LEAP frameworks bring together employers, education institutions, non-profit support organizations and government agencies in a holistic strategic approach to ensure that workers will have the skills needed to succeed in both the short- and long-term in the New Nevada.

LEAP frameworks have been developed for northern and southern Nevada’s Manufacturing industries, as well as Information and Communications Technology and Life Sciences. WINN funded programs are integrated in this model as accelerated on-ramps to LEAP pathways.

In addition to Advanced Manufacturing initiatives, Nevada also has made significant investments in Technology and Healthcare. Of particular note is the recent designation of CSN as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense 2-Year Education, and the new UNLV School of Medicine opening in southern Nevada this year.

“We are building a solid underlying framework for workforce development, which can be further shaped to meet the specific needs of businesses looking to expand in or relocate to Nevada,” said Anderson. “As Elon Musk said, ‘you’ve created a state where you can move quickly; it’s a real get things done state.’”


Workforce development is a key strategy to help create jobs and grow Mississippi’s economy. It’s one of the five components of Blueprint Mississippi, a strategic plan for economic development in Mississippi, and a top priority for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.

In his fourth State of the State address, Gov. Bryant presented his priorities to lawmakers for the 2015 legislative session, including a $50-million investment in workforce training.

workforce training
Gov. Phil Bryant (third from right) presents the First Place Award to the
Mississippi Valley State University team at the inaugural Blueprint Mississippi
Social Business Challenge. (Photo:

Gov. Bryant highlighted the growing strength of Mississippi’s economy, as indicated by a decrease in the unemployment rate, an increase in job creation and a projected increase in personal income.

“We realize that finding a job can and has changed lives for the better, so we must do all in our power to put people to work,” said Gov. Bryant. “Tonight, I am announcing the Keep Mississippi Working Fund—a program that will move nearly $50 million over the next two years without putting a demand on the General Fund.”

The governor also called on the Legislature to fund a $3 million scholarship program for high school students in career tech programs to pursue skills certifications and academic degrees at community and junior colleges.

“I believe with these two programs, we can focus on creating a world-class workforce. With that accomplished, our economic progress can be unlimited,” said Gov. Bryant.

In December 2014, Blueprint Mississippi launched its Social Business Challenge. The Challenge invites teams of students from Mississippi Public Universities to develop ideas for solving the state’s most pressing problems, while learning important lessons about planning, teamwork and presenting ideas.

“Mississippi’s universities are hotbeds of innovation, and this exercise underscores the valuable contributions these institutions make to the entire state,” Gov. Bryant said. “These students are the leaders of tomorrow, and I know they are up to the task of developing creative ways to address any challenge that is put before them. I look forward to seeing the results of their efforts.”

To prepare a workforce ready to meet the demands of today’s industries, Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems focuses on the real-world needs of the state’s advanced manufacturers. CAVS delivers engineering and technical assistance to the automotive industry, other OEMs, and small-to-medium sized manufacturers, and it prepares customized training courses to equip industries’ workers with the tools needed for success in today’s dynamic economy.

In partnership with Nissan, CAVS’ Canton, Miss., extension offers skills training to employees at the company’s Canton assembly plant, in addition the training programs the state has implemented for the eight Nissan models produced in Canton.

Nissan’s decade-long history in Mississippi is a testament to the state’s existing workforce strength in automotive manufacturing. Since locating in Canton, the company has been a story of continued expansion and job growth recently celebrating the opening of its all-new 2015 Nissan Murano assembly line.

In July 2013, Nissan announced the creation of 800 new jobs and the addition of a supplier park at the Canton location to support production of the Murano. In May 2014, it announced an additional 500 jobs to support production of the Murano, brining employment at the plant to more than 6,000. In March 2015, Nissan announced plans to invest another $160 million for a project that could create at least 1,000 new jobs.

The roll out of the 2015 Murano marks the first time the Murano has ever been produced in the U.S. The Canton plant becomes the global hub for Murano production, creating export opportunities in more than 100 markets worldwide and shifting the plant from a domestic manufacturer to a global one.

“Today’s rollout of the Murano is a testament to the quality and ingenuity of Mississippi’s manufacturing workforce,” said Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), the state’s lead economic development agency.

Another program helping to train students in advanced manufacturing is East Mississippi Community College’s (EMCC) Basic Manufacturing Skills Course. Developed over the past 8 years by the EMCC, the 90-hour course covers computer literacy, blueprint reading, precision measurement, high-performance manufacturing, interviewing skills, CRP and the 10 Hour OSHA General Industry Safety Program.

Many large manufacturers in the area utilize this course as part of their screening and training process. According to the MDA, the program was critical to Yokohama Tire Manufacturing’s decision to locate its first U.S. commercial truck tire plant in Mississippi.

“With the potential of creating 2,000 jobs, [the Yokohama plant] project speaks not only to our commitment to a quality workforce, but an environment for growth and expansion,” said Gov. Bryant.

Prior to taking the Basic Manufacturing Skills Course, potential applications to Yokohama must first take the WorkKeys Career Readiness Certification test. Individuals who score Silver or higher (scores range from Bronze, Silver, Gold, to Platinum) are eligible to take the Basic Manufacturing Skills course. The college then refers the successful completers to the company for interviews.

“We are grateful that Yokohama Tire Corporation has placed its confidence in our strong business climate and its trust in our capable, dedicated workforce, and I am certain those two assets will help ensure the company thrives in West Point,” said Christensen.

Demonstrating their commitment to the future of Northeast Mississippi, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc. and the Mississippi Corridor Consortium are partnering in a new, innovative education-to-work program.

Known as the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program, it is designed as an innovative manufacturing degree that will span five semesters of classroom instruction and provide paid, hands-on experience at Toyota’s Blue Springs automotive assembly plant.

The curriculum includes instruction in areas including electricity, fluid power, mechanics, fabrication and robotics, as well as advanced manufacturing, business principles and best practices. Upon completion of the program, candidates will receive an associate’s degree.

Candidates who earn an AMT degree will be able to compete for skilled positions across the country or may apply for any locally available positions at Toyota, its suppliers and any other locally-based companies.

Additionally, they may continue their education in engineering, technology or business or pursue employment opportunities in the open job market.

The state’s strong manufacturing workforce presence also helped attract Demark-based ROXUL, Inc., a leading manufacturer of stone wool insulation products, to open its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Marshall County. The company broke ground on its 600,000-square-foot facility in May 2013.

MDA provided workforce training assistance for the project, which is creating 150 new jobs and often employed more than 500 workers during the construction process.

“It is always exciting when a company announces its plans to locate in our state and create job opportunities for Mississippi’s residents, and it is equally as exciting when those plans are realized and companies officially open for business,” said Christensen.


Oklahoma will soon face a critical shortage in the number of skilled workers available to fill in-demand jobs and grow the state’s economy. By 2025, 70 percent of Oklahoma’s jobs will require education and training beyond high school, according to data from the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development. Currently, only 40 percent of the state’s workforce has such education and training.

workforce training
Gov. Mary Fallin (center) announcing in January that California-based
Kratos Defense & Security Solutions will open engineering and production facilities
in Oklahoma City to support increased demand for jet-powered drones.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Works Initiative is designed to close this skills gap and increase wealth generation in the state by aligning education and training to the needs of businesses so more Oklahomans can achieve economic success.

“I created Oklahoma Works to ensure our state has a relevant workforce to match the skills and training needed by business and industry,” said Fallin. “The initiative has made the state a leader in expanding and diversifying work-based learning and increasing educational attainment relevant to local areas’ economies.”

To do this, private and public partners across the state are investing in long-term strategies to develop and nurture our current and future talent pipeline. The strategies include Launch Oklahoma, calling for producing, over an eight-year span, nearly 600,000 more workers with a college degree, certificate or other quality credential. That would leave roughly 70 percent of Oklahomans 25-64 with post-secondary education and training.

Another strategy is Earn and Learn Oklahoma, a goal established to increase the number of paid apprenticeships and internships in the state to 20,000 by the year 2020.

“Focusing on programs that match our workers to the skills required in the sectors that drive our state’s economy helps Oklahoma succeed by recruiting and growing businesses, while providing higher wage jobs for our citizens,” said Fallin.

One of the top industries in Oklahoma is its aerospace and defense industry, employing more than 120,000 and generating $43.7 billion in economic activity each year. The state’s Aerospace Industry Engineer Workforce Tax Credit is helping to draw skilled engineers to Oklahoma aerospace companies.

The program offers a tax credit equal to 5 percent of the compensation a company pays to an engineer until January 1, 2026, or 10 percent if the engineer graduated from an Oklahoma college or university (up to $12,500 per employee per year), plus another credit of up to 50 percent of the tuition reimbursed to an employee until January 1, 2026. Additionally, the engineer hired receives a tax credit of $5,000 per year until January 1, 2026.

In January 2018, Gov. Fallin announced that a California-based aerospace company, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., is opening administrative and engineering offices and production facilities in Oklahoma City. The offices and productions facilities will accommodate expected increased demand for high-performance, jet-powered unmanned aerial tactical and target drone systems. Kratos is initially occupying an 8,800-square-foot facility in Oklahoma City near Tinker Air Force Base, where the focus will be on engineering and production planning. Within six months, the company plans to expand into a 75,000-square-foot facility to support its initial production efforts in Oklahoma. The company expects to employ more than 350 workers in Oklahoma within the next few years.

“The Aerospace Engineering Tax Credit and Quality Jobs Program incentives offered by Oklahoma, along with their thrust in the Aerospace Industry, are the key reasons we’ve expanded our operations to the great State of Oklahoma,” said Steve Fendley, President Kratos Unmanned Systems Division.

From 2009 (the first year in which the aerospace incentives were in effect) to 2016, aerospace engineering jobs increased by about 16.7 percent—the strongest growth of any of the engineering categories in related occupations, according to the State of Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission. In comparison, the growth of all of these categories over the same timeframe was 2.6 percent.

“It is critically important that our training programs address the current workforce shortage issues that are being felt across the country, while also planning for the jobs of the future,” said Debby Snodgrass, Secretary of Commerce & Tourism. “Part of our focus is ensuring we are providing short- and long-term training that Oklahoma businesses need for jobs that are operating today, as well as working with companies to identify their future needs as they grow and expand in our state.

Oklahoma is tailoring training programs offered by CareerTech and Higher Education institutions in the state to meet those needs. The state’s goal is to increase the number of CareerTech industry credentials from 12,551 in 2013 to 13,806 by 2018. The current number of credentials is 15,152.

The state also is home to a nationally acclaimed Training for Industry Program (TIP) which helps new or expanding businesses create the quality workforce they need, all at little or no cost to the company. TIP is delivered through Oklahoma’s system of 59 technology center campuses across the state. Services include job analysis, training needs assessment, pre-employment training, pre-production training, post-production training, instructional materials and development, training supplies and more.


Southern Indiana is experiencing a surge in entrepreneurial opportunities and workforce development thanks to two new efforts that are bringing new resources and programs to the area.

workforce training
The Perdue Research Foundation (pictured), in partnership with Purdue
Foundry, the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization and Purdue
Research Park, has launched Purdue@WestGate to support startups.

The Purdue Research Foundation, in partnership with Purdue Foundry, the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization and Purdue Research Park, stood up its newest tech park, Purdue@WestGate, last year bringing support for entrepreneurs, technology, research, commercialization and job creation throughout Southern Indiana. While the Technology Park, WestGate@Crane, has existed since 2007, the arrival of Purdue has given new life to the park located just off the new I-69 corridor and adjacent to the world’s third largest naval installation, Naval Support Activity Crane.

Since October 2017, Purdue@WestGate already has helped 16 startups bring their business ideas to reality. It’s on track to help 30 startups in its first year to receive business development support through its free program called FireStarter, which allows entrepreneurs to come to them at any point during their business process to receive guidance.

Companies from Evansville to Terre Haute, and from Jasper to Bloomington have come to Purdue@WestGate to receive help during some stage of their business process. Even some multinational companies have gone through the program as they explore expanding into new markets with the U.S.

When the partnership was announced, the Purdue Research Foundation surveyed local stakeholders and businesses in the Technology Park and around the region to ensure that it could tailor its offerings to the needs of the region, and at the pace that was needed.

One such tailored offering is certifications for regional IT professionals. Before this service, those looking to be certified in specialty areas would often have to travel to Chicago, and Purdue@WestGate has made the process much more convenient locally.

“One of the main goals of Purdue@WestGate is to complement other programs that are already established here in the region,” said Dr. Jason Salstrom, Program and Activities Director at Purdue@WestGate. “We want to serve as the ‘next step’ and work to connect entrepreneurs and innovators to resources, and also connect them to technologies from Crane.”

The focus of Purdue@WestGate’s business support is for technology-based startups and aims to support them all the way through ideation, funding and team creation.

Examples of startups include a company developing technology to help consumers gain insight and control of their energy usage through new electric meter technology, and another who is developing a thermal wall that would allow heat to be absorbed and captured and then channeled to other parts of a building.

Purdue@WestGate also boasts a large co-working space and multiple events for business and workforce development and networking. The Spirited Entrepreneur is an informal monthly gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, civic leaders and economic development leaders and Foundry Grounds is a weekly event where entrepreneurs can meet and present startup ideas.

Purdue@WestGate is the original site for the Purdue Polytechnic CareerMaker Program, which is a workforce development facilitator aimed to help businesses develop and maintain the workforces they need. The program offers consultation, assessments, education, workshops, training and bridges to other resources that give businesses a competitive edge and is now being replicated across the state.

“We can deliver training and services in a much more agile and flexible way than other organizations,” added Dr. Salstrom. “Our approach is to be deliberate and intentional stewards who strengthen regional collaborations and close the gaps for entrepreneurs, businesses and workforce development—all of this ultimately focused on job creation.”

Another group called Regional Opportunity Initiatives is working on quality of life initiatives and talent development in secondary and post-secondary schools in Southwest Central Indiana. ROI is a Lilly Endowment-funded initiative focused on creating a region where people want to live and work.

ROI’s Ready Schools Initiative helps schools align their K-12 curriculum with the needs of employers across core regional industries, which include advanced manufacturing, life sciences and national security and defense.

Currently, ROI is already working with 18 of the 27 regional school districts in Ready Schools’ first year of implementation.

“Schools have begun to realize that they are economic drivers too. They now embrace this concept that they are part of the local economy and are engaging with business and industry to work deliberately and collaboratively on workforce development,” said Todd Hurst, Director of Education and Workforce for ROI.

Also, ROI has developed the STEM Fellows program, which works to support elementary educators in developing STEM teaching and leadership skills. Its goal is to build a network of skilled educators throughout Southwest Central Indiana.

Hurst added that businesses also have become more engaged with these new initiatives, “ROI is seeing the number of internship opportunities increasing, and we can serve as a matchmaker for interns and businesses to create meaningful, impactful experiences for both parties.”

With organizations like Purdue@ WestGate and ROI at work in the region, Southern Indiana stakeholders, economic development organizations, academia and industry are coming together to help cultivate talent and create an atmosphere that supports growth.

Dr. Salstrom ended by stressing the importance of collaboration, “Overall we believe Purdue@WestGate is a connector of resources for this region, we look forward to continuing to work with all of our regional partners in this innovation ecosystem that our area has created to bring new growth and opportunities for employees and employers.”

The Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC, one of 18 cooperative member-owners of Hoosier Energy, a generation and transmission cooperative covering southern and central Indiana and southeastern Illinois, has been instrumental in providing the infrastructure for the technology park.

Since its groundbreaking in 2006, UDWI REMC has been a steadfast partner of WestGate@Crane and helped ensure that the park has the power needed to serve its original tenants and new facilities over the years, which include multiple defense contractors and organizations like the Battery Innovation Center, a 25,000-square-foot facility focused on the rapid development, testing and commercialization of safe, reliable and lightweight energy storage systems for defense and commercial customers.


The Alabama Workforce Training Center (AWTC), which operates under the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) agency, was established in 2015 to recruit and train a skilled workforce to help attract new business and expand existing industries in the state. The center prepares students for positions in construction, manufacturing and other industries; Duke is one with about 144 students being trained at the facility.

Students are under the tutelage of skilled professionals. Linda Poindexter is director of the AWTC’s Academy of Craft Training; she is the liaison between the training center and the 24 schools from 14 school systems that send students throughout the school year.

“Initially, they think we’re just providing a skill set, which we are,” Poindexter said, in a recent interview with The Birmingham Times. “But the overall goal is for students to get full-time employment after they graduate.”

Students get experience before they graduate as well: “During Christmas break, during spring break, our students are working and actually getting paid,” she said. “They can get $10 an hour while they’re still in school. Once they graduate, they can get $12.50.”

The center’s instructors are all professionals in their respective fields and their class sizes range from five to 10, depending on the course on the schedule. Jobs are managed through a staffing agency because the students are underage. Once they get more than the 400 hours required for the staffing agency, they can be paid whatever the employer wants to offer.

“Our students are getting offers that are way past $12.50,” Poindexter said. “A lot of them are getting offered benefits, too.”

Is the AWTC a school or a worksite? Poindexter said the center at 3500 Sixth Ave. South in Birmingham is a gem, one of the few of its kind in the entire country. It covers nearly the entire block and includes shop space, several classrooms, conference rooms and a 300-person-capacity auditorium. But that’s only part of the picture.

Inside the AWTC facility, high school students don safety glasses, hardhats and safety vests—all the personal protective equipment they’d wear on a professional jobsite of trained skilled laborers.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has long been a supporter of the AWTC.

“By having this workforce training facility in Birmingham, we are making a down payment on residents interested in using resources to advance their careers and their futures,” Woodfin said. “We all win with this effort. The center will help put residents in positions to get jobs or better jobs, which will only help them in the future.”


Wisconsin is home to several innovative workforce development programs helping to provide jobs of the future and create a skilled talent pipeline for businesses across the state.

The Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) Program is a talent development solution driven by Wisconsin businesses to train and retain highly skilled workers. WFF grants incentivize employers to implement customized training programs that provide workers with the practical jobs skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.

workforce training
Wisconsin’s Registered Apprenticeship Program provides training to
11,000 apprentices for 2,500 employers annually. Pictured: trainee installing
glass in a door at Larson’s Custom Cabinets in Cornell. (Photo:

Since its inception in March 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has awarded over 235 customized worker training grant projects, helping hundreds of Wisconsin businesses upskill thousands of workers to fill job openings and advance in the workplace.

Most recently, Larson’s Custom Cabinets in Cornell, was awarded two grants totaling $58,949 to provide lean training for production workers and software training for cabinet designers. Co-owner Travis Glaus said WFF training enabled the company to grow, hire more employees and plan for the addition of a new facility.

“Thanks to grant training, we were able to accomplish in a year what would have probably taken us five years to do it on our own,” said Travis Glaus, co-owner of Larson’s Custom Cabinets. “I don’t know what company wouldn’t need or want the extra help financially to be able to afford to get the training to benefit your company to let it grow.”

DWD’s Youth Apprenticeship Program integrates school-based and work-based learning, providing high school juniors and seniors with instruction in employability and occupational skills as defined by Wisconsin industries.

Employers across the state participate in the program to help develop a local workforce and create a recruitment pipeline that is loyal to the business and community. For the 2017-2018 school year, Wisconsin invested a record $3.9 million in state funding in the program, providing the opportunity for 4,324 students to gain hands-on work experience at 3,023 employers.

Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire has been a long-time supporter of the Youth Apprenticeship Program, helping 85 youth apprentices gain work experience and develop job skills at the company since 2002. In the 2017-2018 school year alone, the company employed seven youth apprentices.

“Royal Credit Union is proud to participate in Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship Program,” said Brandon Riechers, President & CEO Royal Credit Union. “We value the contributions of the students at Royal’s high school and community offices. They provide exceptional Member service and we enjoy playing a role in preparing students for their future careers.”

The Wisconsin Registered Apprenticeship Program provides a value-added training model with broad industry engagement for as many as 11,000 apprentices and 2,500 employers annually. The program enables employers to build a customized skills training system, immersing trainees in company culture while helping them earn good-paying, family-supporting wages as they learn a high demand trade.

Wisconsin unveiled new Mechatronics Registered Apprenticeship standards in June 2017, providing a high-demand training solution to enhance the skills of technicians who support robotics and automation technologies used in advanced manufacturing processes for electrical, mechanical and electronic systems.

The hybrid training model is a five-year program of not less than 10,000 hours, including 864 hours of related technical instruction at a Wisconsin technical college. Apprentices who successfully complete training hours and competency requirements will earn a nationally recognized industry credential and technical college credits that may be applied towards an associate’s degree.

“Manufacturing is ever evolving with technical complexity that requires our technicians to understand mechanical, electrical, hydraulics, pneumatics, computer and controls engineering,” said Jeff Clark, Waukesha Metal Products President and CEO. “Mechatronics blends all of these skills into one training program that prepares technicians for Industry 4.0. This is the apprenticeship program I see playing an important role in keeping our company significant in any future economy.”

As a result of workforce training efforts, unemployment is down and more people are working ever than before in Wisconsin. The state’s unemployment rate of 2.9 percent is an all-time low and it has reached all-time highs both in the number of people employed in the state and the size of its total civilian labor force.

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released data for March 2018 indicating that Wisconsin gained 8,900 private sector jobs, ranking the state fourth in the nation in private sector jobs gained over-the-month.

Wisconsin also gained 2,100 manufacturing jobs in March 2018, which ranked third nationally and first in the Midwest, and the state’s labor force participation rate of 68.7 percent ranked tied for fourth nationally.

“Businesses need skilled workers to grow their operations in Wisconsin, and we understand that talent development doesn’t have a one-size fits all approach,” said Ray Allen, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. “By providing employers with a unique portfolio of talent development programs, employers are able to use a combination of proven solutions like vocational rehabilitations, apprenticeship, worker training grants and more to meet their growing workforce needs.”


This past March, Gov. Tom Wolf spearheaded a fresh new proposal to build a workforce that’s prepared to take on the evolving skill sets of 21st century industry: PAsmart. PAsmart will be a phased approach to further strengthen workforce efforts at multiple agencies while aligning their work with K-12 and higher education.

“These efforts will help all Pennsylvanians prepare for successful careers by supporting STEM and computer science education, increasing the number of registered apprenticeships across the state, forging technical and STEM career pathways and developing industry-university partnerships to help prepare student for the high-demand jobs local employers need,” said Michael Gerber, Press Secretary for the PA Department of Community & Economic Development.

PAsmart also augments the services currently provided by WEDnet PA—Pennsylvania’s successful incumbent worker training program that supported the training of more than 44,000 employees at more than 800 companies statewide during the past year.

The program is administered through a network of educational partners that include community colleges and universities across the state. Eligible in-state businesses and out-of-state companies relocating to Pennsylvania can apply to access training funds which in turn can be used for a wide range of training based on the needs of the employer.

“By focusing exclusively on incumbent worker training, WEDnet serves as a complement to other state initiatives to develop the workforce like apprenticeship programs, STEM education, and career and technical education,” said Gerber.

Incumbent training enables employers to better adapt to the changing global economy through their current workforce rather than hiring brand new workers—or moving to other areas with a greater supply of a specific talent base. For workers, incumbent training programs not only strengthen job security, but lead to more advanced and more marketable skills.

In April 2018, Gov. Wolf announced that Bell & Evans, a poultry processing and wholesale company, will expand its presence in Bethel Township, Lebanon County, creating more than 1,000 new jobs. Among other funding, Bell & Evans received $421,650 in funding for job training through the WEDnet PA program.

“With a project as large as the Bell & Evans project, we want to ensure that not only will more than 1,000 jobs be created over the next three years, but that those Bell & Evans workers have the training support they need to succeed in their jobs,” said Dennis M. Davin, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

In January 2018, PAC Worldwide (PAC), a manufacturer of flexible packaging, announced it will expand into Lower Nazareth Township, Northampton County, creating more than 160 new jobs. Among other funding, PAC Worldwide received $73,350 in WEDnetPA funding for employee training.

“It’s telling that, after exploring where it can best maximize its growth in the northeast U.S., PAC chose Pennsylvania—and the strength of our workforce and our workforce development programs played a large part in that decision,” said Davin.

Workforce training continues to support economic growth and stability across Pennsylvania, preparing thousands of employees for the ever-increasing technology-focused demands of various industries.

In October 2017, Gov. Wolf announced Manufacturing PA, a new initiative to support manufacturing and link job training to career pathways. This initiative ensures that training leads not simply to any job, but to careers that provide higher pay and opportunities for advancement. As the third-largest industry in Pennsylvania, manufacturing employs more than 550,000 workers with an average salary of nearly $60,000.

Manufacturing PA provides funding for manufacturing training programs, leverages the state’s research capacity to support students in engagements with industry and expands the outreach of Pennsylvania’s existing Industrial Resource Centers to target small and medium-sized businesses.

It also aims to partner research universities and Industrial Resource Centers to accelerate manufacturing technology advancement and adoption, foster manufacturing innovation and commercialization and continue building a highly skilled, highly trained workforce.

Under Manufacturing PA, the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Training-to-Career Grant Program helps companies identify and train a skilled workforce while creating a workplace culture that enables employees to advance and the company to grow.

“It’s so important that we address worker shortages because availability of talent is one of the top factors that businesses consider when looking to expand in Pennsylvania or move here for the first time,” said Davin. “That’s why several of our workforce development programs actively partner with local businesses to determine their talent needs so we can most effectively support them.”

This past year, DCED supported the training of more than 44,000 employees at more than 800 companies statewide through the WEDnet PA program. A total of 120,000 workers at more than 2,200 companies across the commonwealth have been supported through the program since the beginning of the Wolf Administration.

Apprenticeships are also on the rise. The newly created Department of Labor & Industry Apprenticeship and Training Office has expanded registered apprenticeships and increased participation of non-traditional businesses and under-represented Pennsylvanians. Participation has increased from 725 registered apprenticeship programs and 13,282 registered apprentices to 750 programs and 15,208 apprentices.

The proposed 2018-19 Budget invests an additional $7 million in apprenticeship and work-based learning initiatives, with a goal of doubling the number of registered apprentices in the state by 2025.

“A new pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship program will enable more Pennsylvania employers to develop the specialized training their workers need to close skills gaps in the workplace, while also providing rewarding career pathways for students and adults,” said Gerber. “Funds will support youth pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship experiences as well as adult apprenticeship programs at the postsecondary level.”

Pennsylvania also has increased the number of career and technical education (CTE) students earning industry-recognized credentials by 32.2 percent and the number of credentials earned by students enrolled in CTE programs by 28.4 percent, better preparing students for a variety of career paths.

“It’s the comprehensive and connected nature of all of our workforce development programs through PAsmart, as well as the direct input we’ve received from our partners and businesses across the commonwealth, that perfectly tailors our programs to Pennsylvania,” said Davin. “Our focus isn’t just helping businesses, but also to empower our workers and help them get secure, family-sustaining jobs.”

In February 2018, Gov. Wolf also launched the PA Business One-Stop Shop to guide entrepreneurs and small businesses through all stages of development—from idea to startup to success.

The PA Business One-Stop Shop is a team of business consultants and subject matter experts from across state government that have come together to make resources, knowledge, and their experience easily accessible to anyone looking to do business in Pennsylvania. Its website——provides information for those starting a business, growing an existing business, or considering a move to the Keystone State from the U.S. or abroad—all in one convenient location.

More than 99 percent of all businesses in Pennsylvania are small businesses, which employ about half the state’s workforce and are important job creators across the state. “Entrepreneurs, particularly those running or looking to start a small business, are the backbone of our economy and are often responsible for driving innovation and vision in their communities,” said Gerber.