Grants can help training centers build programs

To many training directors, grants can be scary. They require information, time, paperwork and accountability that can be difficult to squeeze into a day filled with all the other tasks involved with running a school.

Grants can also be a way to supplement training and allow schools to expand programming and offer additional curriculum for journeypersons as well as apprentices.

Lance Clark, apprentice administrator for Sheet Metal Local No. 105 in Southern California, has been applying for grants, and receiving them, for years. He has worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District and a local grant expert to apply for grants from his state’s Employment Training Panel five times. Recently, Southern California Sheet Metal JATC was awarded a $949,690 grant, which reimburses the school $13.90 per hour for second through fifth-year apprentices once they’ve worked 500 hours in a five-month time frame.

The Southern California Sheet Metal Apprenticeship competes with non-union apprenticeships for these grants, which doesn’t replace funding; it subsidizes it, Clark said.

As written, a small percentage of the grant goes to the school district, and the school district tracks all of the work and school hours the apprentices members complete. Everything is tracked for the audit, and all numbers add up.

“This offsets any of the costs you have. It’s all for training and re-training,” Clark added. “You list all the training you do already. Everything is aboveboard, and it works out.”

A lesson Clark has learned over the years – don’t accept the money until the requirements are met. If a grant requires 500 hours of work by apprentices in a five-month period, and the local can’t help the apprentices meet that goal, don’t apply for the grant, Clark said.

“This time, we applied for the larger amount because we knew we had the apprentices to meet the 500 hours,” he added. “If you fail to meet it, you lose the right to apply for another grant.”

Although not every state has an Employment Training Panel, Clark provided some tips for training directors interested in applying for grants in their area:

  • Track everything and provide backup. “I don’t care if a guy went and worked one day. I want that eight hours,” he said. “People forget. They miss it. But you have to track everything.”
  • There is money available if you go look for it. Many school districts have funds for re-training. Some districts can have more than others, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.
  • Research and understand the grants. This includes approaching school districts for their help and reaching out to experts.
  • Make the time. “If it’s worth it, you’ll make it happen,” he said.
  • Grants are available; don’t be scared of them.
  • Know your program. “If you know your program and know what you’re capable of, you’ll know your hours and what grants you should and shouldn’t apply for,” Clark said.
  • Never take any money until all your hours are met.
  • Surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing.
  • Find out where the money is coming from. In Southern California Sheet Metal JATC’s early grant-applying days, they applied for a grant that, in fine print, said they would train non-union apprentices. In turn, Southern California Sheet Metal JATC had to turn down a sizable grant, and Clark learned a little something.

Grants also can help keep training ongoing when the economy is tough. When a coordinator can add equipment without financing it, it not only sets up the school in the present tense with no debt; it ensures the future is a little more stable.

“I am trying to ensure that our apprenticeship continues to offer the most advanced training to generations to come,” Clark said. “It’s a win-win. It helps out your bottom line. Somebody is going to get the funding. It may as well be us.”

Originally posted on Eye on Sheet Metal.

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