D.L. Martin is a company dedicated to the lifelong learning of its employees.
But the type of education needed for highly technical training can come with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, companies in Pennsylvania don’t have to bear the full cost alone thanks to WEDnetPA, a state-administered program that provides funding to companies for incumbent workforce training.
“Without this funding stream, we wouldn’t be able to have our employees trained the way we want them to be trained,” says Tim Lachemann, Human Resources Manager, D.L. Martin. “We couldn’t do a lot of the work we do without WEDnet. It’s a great program that not only benefits the employee but the employer. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
During his recent budget address, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed increasing WEDnetPA funding by $2 million. Created in 1999, WEDnetPA has helped more than 17,000 companies train their Pennsylvania-based employees, and even celebrated a significant milestone in 2013 with the training of its one-millionth employee.
“The success of WEDnet speaks for itself,” said C. Alan Walker, Secretary, Department of Community and Economic Development. “It is a great tool as it assists companies in the training of their employees and is a tremendous asset for the commonwealth to ensure that Pennsylvania has a highly skilled workforce.”
Tom Venditti, State Director, WEDnetPA, said the program is unique because it utilizes existing staff at about 30 partner institutions to ensure a cost-effective and efficient program delivery system, with 90 cents of every program dollar going directly to employee training.
“The company is in control of how, when and where they get their employees trained,” Venditti said. “They meet our eligibility requirements and are reimbursed after the training has been completed.”
Designed for manufacturing- and technology-based businesses, WEDnetPA has specific eligibility requirements, according to Venditti. Employees must be employed full-time, earn at least 150 percent more than the minimum wage, and be a Pennsylvania resident.
“WEDnet is designed to supplement a company’s training program and encourages them to take the training of their employees to the next level,” Venditti said.
Venditti noted the secret to WEDnetPA’s success is its close relationship with its network of educational partners.
“We have a solid network in place and those partners really understand training and the training needs of manufacturing- and technology-based industries,” Venditti said. “Our network of universities, community colleges, colleges and private-sector providers has created a collaborative approach to working with companies to provide specialized training for their employees.”
Liza Steele, Harrisburg Area Community College’s WEDnetPA representative, said one of the program’s greatest assests is it affords incumbent employees the opportunity to move up the company ladder or seek new career paths within their chosen profession.
“With technology expanding and changing as rapidly as it has been, it is very important to help advance employee skills and to train them at a higher level,” Steele said. “Some of the training for advanced manufacturing and high technology offered by HACC includes supervisory, computer, communications and soft skills, which is a really big component of company training programs.”
Steele said she appreciates the program’s diversity in supporting companies both small and large while utilizing the services of local Workforce Investment Boards to verify high priority workforce needs.
“We really try to spread funding out as fairly as we can and ask how training can help a company grow their business by improving employee skills,” Steele added.
Steele said she is moved when she hears positive reports from employees after their training.
“Many workers really appreciate the training,” Steele said. “Afterwards, we hear back from so many employees who say, ‘Wow, it means a lot to me that my company was willing to invest in my career and wants to help advance my career’.”
A major player within WEDnetPA, according to Venditti, is the Governor’s Action Team (GAT), a state agency that is also a close partner of Team Pennsylvania Foundation.
“When GAT is looking at companies to either locate to or retain here in Pennsylvania, we are a financial tool that they have in their bag by offering a WEDnet grant,” Venditti said. “We’re always prepared to respond to GAT’s needs because they are a first priority for us.”
At D.L. Martin, WEDnetPA is a critical program to help the manufacturer of precision machined components and custom fabrications keep up with the ever-changing technological advances, according to Lachemann.
“If we can’t continue to keep our employees up to speed with technology, manufacturing in this country is going to die,” Lachemann said. “And that’s not just D.L. Martin, that’s all manufacturing companies. You have to continue to educate your employees so they stay current with all of the new technologies that are coming out.”
For more on WEDnetPA, visit wednetpa.com.