On-the-Job training – in which the wages of hard-to-place employees are partially paid with government and other funds – provides an opportunity for those in reentry to enter the workforce. The challenge can be that it takes cooperation from employers, and most employers are completely unaware of the training and the incredible benefits they can receive.
The good news is, however, that by getting the word out and educating employers on the existence of OJT, more ex-offenders would become employed, and they could get jobs more quickly. In fact, Workforce One, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (ETA), has created free resources to help spread the word about OJT.
The program basically works like this. Employers hire hard-to-place employees with the promise that they will train these employees for whatever job they’re being hired to do. In return, the wages are paid – usually partially – by federal, and sometimes state or private, funding.
On-the-Job training programs work in a variety of ways, but the funding is through the Workforce Investment Act, which was established in 1998 during the Clinton Administration to get businesses involved in workforce development.
In some cases, OJT is administered by state employment agencies through One-Stop Career Centers or other means. In others, it is carried out by nonprofit organizations.
Employment can be in the public, private or nonprofit sector, but before anyone can participate in OJT, they must receive pre-employment counseling, a comprehensive assessment or some sort of “intensive service” from a case manager or employment counselor. This might include developing an individual employment plan in which the participant identifies their employment goals and objectives and determines how to reach them.
Employers sign a contract specifying the terms of the training. Usually half of that employee’s wages is paid during a specific training period, which lasts varying amounts of time, possibly from four weeks to six months, depending on the employer and the program. In some programs, a state will kick in the difference and pay 100% of the wages, usually for a shorter, more intensive training period and occasionally nonprofits come up with more than 50% of the wages, as well. The end result ideally is that the participant is hired in a permanent position.
In Las Vegas, OJT is administered by a range of nonprofits, including GNJ Family Life Center, an organization designed to use federal funds to train job seekers. Last year, it was awarded $1.8 million dollars – $1.2 million to train adults and $600,000 for youth.
Here’s how it works. “We have an OTJ training program for the more difficult-to-place clients,” says Bonita Fahy, an ex-offender who works as a career specialist at the nonprofit. “Between 50 percent and 90 percent of the employee’s wages are paid up to a certain amount. If the pay is $11 hour it’s a $3,000 reimbursement. And if it’s $14 or more per hour, it’s a $4,000 reimbursement.”
If an employer wants to hire one of her clients who is not quite qualified for the position, Fahy goes out and inspects the jobsite and develops a training plan. For example, if it’s a call center position, she’ll train her client on up selling – encouraging people buy more than they intended to buy – and policy and procedures. She also develops a training plan to benefit both the employer and new hire.
The training usually lasts seven weeks. “We don’t tell the employer how to do the training. It’s what they’re already doing. We ask the employers to keep people at least nine months, however,” she says.
Her organization has placed people in doctors’ offices, nonprofits, behavioral health agencies, warehouses and electric companies. Although GNJ Family Life Center is located in Las Vegas, it can’t work with hotels, because most of the hotel jobs are unionized and by the terms of WIA they can’t pay union dues, according to Fahy.
Although another agency in Las Vegas works strictly with formerly incarcerated job seekers, Fahy deals with people of all types. About 30 percent of her caseload is ex-offenders.
If you’re a job seeker and want to find OJT opportunities, check with your local One-Stop Career Center.
If you know of an employer who might want to take advantage of OJT funds to hire you, check with your local Workforce Investment Board, which administers the funding, to see what they need to do. If you’re working with a job developer who is unfamiliar with OJT training, tell that person to contact the WIB on your behalf.
For examples of some of the OJT programs out there, check out the following sources: