By Selwyn Harris
NyE Communities Coalition NCC officials are reaching out to businesses with a program structured to deliver skilled workers to Nye and Esmeralda County employers.
The On the Job Training program OJT assists potential employers by helping with the recruiting and pre-screening of individuals seeking employment.
NCC’s Tim Wigchers is the job developer and communications coordinator of the program.
He is presently approaching local businesses to learn if they want to get on-board.
“We have money right now to invest in people to help businesses grow and I will be spending some of my time every week out in the community meeting with business leaders and owners sharing what this program is all about. We can help fill job orders. In other words we can post job openings locally and statewide. If a new technology or new process training is needed for employees we might be able to help pay for it. When an employer is adding staff, we can reimburse 50 percent of the wage during the training period. There are a few details we need to discuss with the employer but the process can occur quickly,” he said.
Wigchers also said there are a few stipulations for business owners who want to participate in the program which includes a 12-week training period.
“One of the criteria for a business to qualify for this reimbursement program is that the end of training an employee has to be working at least 30 hours a week. It is not for a 10 or 12 hour a week employee. These new employees are going to learn something new. Each week their experiences are going to grow. Again, the real benefit to the employer is that during the 12-week training period, we are going to be able to reimburse 50 percent of the employee’s wage,” he said.
Another prerequisite of the program, Wigchers said, is that the potential employer also must sign an “intent to hire” document.
“We can help them find that employee or if they are getting ready and they have identified somebody, we can work with them. One of the caveats of this program is once they hire an employee, it’s too late for us. If they are thinking about growing and adding staff, we need to talk first. This isn’t just something that is here for the next 60 or 90 days. This is an ongoing program. We are halfway through our funding cycle and like I said, we have the money now to invest in Pahrump and Nye County,” he said.
Additionally, Wigchers said an employer cannot lay somebody off in order to take advantage of the training program.
“You can’t let somebody go and then bring somebody else in that they are getting subsidized or reimbursed for. You can’t get rid of A and replace A with B. Our services cost a business nothing. This is a win-win situation because it’s a chance to potentially save thousands of dollars while the employees are getting up to speed learning new and transferrable skills,” he said.
Wigchers also said that job seekers may qualify for monetary support through the program if necessary.
“In the food service industry a lot of businesses require skid-resistant shoes and through our case managers, they are actually able to help most people with money to do that. Or if you are unemployed right now and get a job offer maybe you can’t afford to fill your gas tank until you get that first check we can help out with that too. We have three full-time case managers here that are really taking those new employees and job seekers by the hand and guiding them through the process of either getting re-employed or advancing in their career,” he said.
Wigchers said the coalition’s renewed focus on the program has already attracted one local business owner who has signed on for the OJT.
Cassandra Selbach owns Sweet Corner Express on Frontage Rd.
She said she is working with the coalition on three employees in her new business venture.
“It has been such a smooth process. They were incredibly helpful and quick to respond to any questions that we had. Our situation required a quick turnaround and we didn’t have much time to get our employees hired and ready to train so that we could open up the Sweet Corner Express on time but the coalition met our timeline. We are very grateful for this program especially in these tough economic times because it is financially exhausting to hire new employees because of the extra labor needed to train them. We were able to hire individuals that otherwise might have difficulties finding employment because of lack of experience,” she said.
Another local business owner, John Shewalter, said he was involved in a similar state sponsored program a few years back and had nothing but good words to describe it.
“We hired about three of the people that came through that program. We hired them as regular employees. It would bring kids to us that we would never see because they wouldn’t apply for jobs because they didn’t think they had the skills or were ready to join the workforce. We did it for a couple of years. I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.
Wigchers, meanwhile, mentioned another limitation for prospective employers as it relates to the program.
“These are federal dollars and they can’t be reinvested in government. For example, we can’t help the town or the county as far as on the job training for employees. The other restriction is religious organizations and independent contractors. A lot of realtors are independent contractors and they work under the umbrella of a company but they are actually their own company and the program doesn’t allow for that so there are a few exceptions. We can however work with non-profit organizations and any for-profit businesses.”
The OJT program is not new to Nye County but it is a continuation of the same services the coalition has provided for many years.
Wigchers also said that it is one of the most under-utilized programs that the coalition offers.
“It’s just that we are refocusing our efforts. I took on the responsibility of managing the OJT program for our adult workforce for Career Connections so I’m wearing that hat as well,” he said.
Individuals and businesses who want to learn more about the program may contact Wigchers at 727-9970 ext. 203.