October 1, 2018
VIEWPOINT

Educate your employees

Photo | Courtesy
James Vander Hooven, President of Mount Wachusett Community College.

Continuing education is key to remaining competitive in our rapidly changing economy. This applies not only to individuals, but businesses. An educated workforce is a huge asset in an industry.

Workforce training happens organically at most businesses, often on an as-needed basis. But it isn't enough to allow training to happen when new staff come on board or when new equipment is part of the equation. You have to be proactive and educate your workforce in a meaningful way. Training improves your company by:

• Improved employee communication skills for better internal and external coordination

• Cross-trained employees capable of performing additional functions

• Reduced time correcting mistakes

• Employees better equipped to adapt to changes

• Improved sales and increased profit

Training your workforce can take many forms. At Mount Wachusett Community College, we often lean on our internal experts to disseminate their expertise. With larger organizations such as ours, it is possible to hold training sessions where experts from one division, such as information-technology, educate others. Bringing in outside experts is another classic tactic to build up knowledge. These types of trainings can certainly be effective. However, they have their limitations and costs. These challenges can be especially large barriers for small and midsized companies.

One of the exciting opportunities available for training in Massachusetts is the Workforce Training Fund. Annually, 187,000 Massachusetts businesses pay into it. In turn, each year approximately $21 million in grant money is awarded to help businesses enhance and expand employee skills. This fund allows trainers to develop and implement programs specific to a particular employer's needs. Once you reach out to a trainer, they are able ease access to funds and set up training. I am a huge fan of this program, and not just because MWCC is a trainer. I value this program because of the positive impact I see it having on our local businesses.

Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Rosalin Acosta visited with a local credit union in the midst of a two-year leadership training program funded through the Workforce Training Fund. Apart from learning about leadership models and about themselves, employees in this program spoke with her about the chance this training gave them to work with others from across the institution.

These students felt this investment in their abilities showed their employer valued them. This is one of those intangibles impacting every aspect of your business. Workers who feel valued due to these investments and who know their employers are concerned about the employees' future, are more likely to work productively and remain loyal.

This is why I encourage everyone to explore workforce training. You need to find what is right for your company. We have a team dedicated to this, but whatever avenue you choose, just remember to keep it focused on your needs.

James Vander Hooven is president of Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner.

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