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Five Questions for Stewart Knox, Executive Director of the California Employment Training Panel

One of our missions at UpSkill America is to help link employers who want to upskill their workers with resources available to help them be successful.  This week, I spoke with Stewart Knox, Executive Director of the California Employment and Training Panel. The Employment Training Panel is a part of the UpSkill America movement and is a great program California created that provides funding for worker training.  Because it is fairly unique in its funding, scope and structure, I thought you might like to learn more about it.

  1. What is the Employment Training Panel?

The Employment Training Panel (ETP) is a business and labor-supported state agency that funds the costs of vocational training.  ETP is governed by an 8 member panel, and is funded by a tax on employers (the Employment Training Tax), collected alongside the California Unemployment Insurance Tax.  The ETP program targets firms threatened by out-of-state competition or who compete in the global economy, by entering into performance-based contracts with California employers.  ETP focuses on job creation and retention, provides incentives for small businesses and for companies in high unemployment areas within California, and provides training funds for both incumbent and unemployed workers.  Since its inception in 1982, ETP has reimbursed employers well over $1 Billion for training workers in over 80,000 businesses.

  1. How do you help employers with their upskilling needs?

ETP’s training programs are customized for each business that contracts with us, allowing each company to provide the training that their employees need, helping to ensure that California businesses will have the skilled workers they need to remain competitive.  Employers are involved in every aspect of the ETP training programs, from assessing their training needs, through customizing curriculum and implementing and administering their training plans.  Training occurs in classroom, laboratory, hands-on, and computer-based settings, depending on the needs of each employer.  ETP training programs cover a wide variety of topics, such as Quality Management Principles, Statistical Process Control, Computer Skills, Sales Techniques, Production Techniques, Customer Service, Advanced Technology, and more, and are adaptable to fit each employer’s needs.

  1. How do you measure success?

ETP training programs are performance-based contracts.  A business may earn ETP funds only after a trainee completes all training and is retained for a minimum time period (normally 90 days) at a required wage in a job using the skills learned in training.  ETP tracks these details in the total completion rate for each project, and for all of our projects as a whole.  ETP also sees many repeat contractors come back for second and third training program contracts, and their feedback has shown that they find their partnership with ETP to be beneficial for their workers and for their companies.

  1. Can you give a couple of examples of how employers have used ETP to upskill their employees?

Every month, ETP provides a summary of all of the projects approved at our monthly Panel meeting, and which also highlights one of our newly approved contractors.  Recently we have highlighted an automobile manufacturer who will be training close to 600 incumbent and newly hired workers, including some veterans, in hybrid nanotechnology battery manufacturing at a brand new California facility; two Division of Apprenticeship Standards approved apprenticeship training programs in the construction industry for pre-apprentices, apprentices, and journeymen; and a family owned bakery getting ready to take their smaller business into the international market on a larger scale.

  1. Are there similar programs in other states and if so, how might an employer find out about them?

Most states have programs that are dedicated to workforce training.  These programs are often related to the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which provides federal funding to the states to implement workforce training programs to help job seekers gain the training and skills they need to enter the workforce, and to help employers connect with the skilled workers they need for their companies to be successful.  A good place to look for information on these programs would be on the WIOA website (www.doleta.gov/WIOA) or on any state’s labor agency website.  ETP’s program is different from these programs in that ETP is completely funded through the California ETT tax, and is also focused on incumbent worker training along with training for unemployed individuals.  There are a few other states that have programs similar to ETP’s, however, they do not reach the scope of ETP’s program, which in this fiscal year (FY 15-16) has over a $90 million budget, the largest by far state/employer funded program of its kind with the United States.