State awards grants to employer groups for workforce development


The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on Tuesday announced the award of six grants designed to strengthen local small businesses through training programs. The grants will be used as seed money to develop innovative education and training curricula in economic sectors identified by Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the county workforce investment boards, employer organizations, industry and trade associations, and labor organizations.

“Ninety-five percent of businesses in Hawaii are small businesses that play an essential role in job creation,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie in a prepared statement. “I’d like to acknowledge the Legislature for identifying these funds, which this administration has in-turn expedited to support small business as our economy continues to grow.”

“Too often small businesses lack the ability to provide training for their workers, which impedes their ability to both remain viable and grow,” said Dwight Takamine, director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. “These grants will assist small businesses and their workers by providing training that would otherwise not be available.”

Act 2 (SLH 2011), introduced as part of the governor’s legislative package, authorizes the department to assess employers through the Employment and Training Fund in 2011 and 2012 to cover interest payments. In addition, Act 25 (SLH 2013) enables the DLlR to use monies collected ($800,000), but not used, to cover the cost of federal loans to pay unemployment insurance benefits. While $211,000 was paid in interest for federal loans in December 2010, the director was able to waive the assessment in 2012, which left $800,000 from the special assessment in 2011.

“Although small businesses are central to job creation, they often lack human resource staff to facilitate the upgrading of the business’s workforce skills,” said Workforce Development Division Administrator Elaine Young. “The grants target small businesses where there are critical skill shortages in high growth occupations and industries.”

The following grants were awarded:

Retail Merchants of Hawaii will receive $125,000 to develop training that focuses on talent management (management/staff retention), and business optimization, which includes improvement of operations through development of business plans, proper training of employees to understand how to best provide service, focus of sales management and financial/pricing/loss prevention and risk management.

Japan Hawaii Travel Association will receive $112,500 to develop a five-component training curriculum that addresses service expectations of Japanese visitors. JHTA has contracted with LearningBiz to develop the curriculum and deliver the training statewide.

Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association was awarded $125,000 to deliver their community specific Ola Hawaii hospitality and leadership curriculum, which is culturally based, for communities who have training access challenges because of location or cost-prohibitive barriers (South Shore Kauai, Kaneohe, Hana Maui and North Hawaii were initially identified).

Hawaii Island Workforce and Economic Development Ohana Inc. will receive $117,502 to develop technical training modules for small businesses to learn how to gain more exposure on the Internet.

Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers was awarded $70,886 to develop and establish a Master Food Preserver certificate pilot program. This program will teach participants to develop and safely preserve value-added products that use undersold and underutilized produce to increase capacity and income for small agribusinesses. The intent is the establishment of a program that can be offered statewide.

Service Corps of Retired Executives Association will receive $94,000 to provide business owners, members of management and key personnel a comprehensive business training program that covers successfully leading and operating a business. The training and mentoring for both for-profit and nonprofits will be led by both active and retired business executives as well as entrepreneurs.

The Employment and Training Fund was established to support innovative programs developed in cooperation between business and government to assist employers and workers. From its inception in 1991, the ETF has helped employers train workers to learn invaluable new skills for their jobs. With these new skills, the employees are now able to better perform in their jobs and seek out increased pay or promotions.

Currently, there are two types of ETF funding sources: ETF Macro and ETC Micro. Macro grants provide funds for industry specific training where there are critical skill shortages in high growth or occupational or industry areas. These funds are used as seed money to develop cutting edge education and training curricula and program design and activities where none exists in the state.

The Micro program is most popular among individual businesses that need to upgrade the job skills of their employees. Training courses that are available include computer, business, management, health, medical training and soft skills training. Employers are eligible to receive up to 50 percent of tuition costs provided by approved vendors.