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Moore About Business: Quick Response Training grants help companies with workforce

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Workforce development is a hot topic all over the country and certainly in Southwest Florida.

Adrian Kerr, Florida's Southwestern State College Executive Director for Workforce and Continuing Education, shared a bit about his role and how the programs his department is involved with are helping to shape our future local workforce.

"We focus on workforce training. We are entirely focused on the segment which is called non credit, but we have moved in the last few years to develop a range of classes that are non credit short in nature which will get you a micro credential and a digital badge which you can take with you to your career development," said Kerr. "I'm also the fiscal agent for the state of Florida for Southwest Florida on the QRT grants, which are training grants offered by the Government of Florida to people expanding their businesses."

Kerr explained what QRT stands for and how the grants work.

"Called the QRT or Quick Response Training grant, Florida has offered quick response training grants throughout the state for many, many years," said Kerr. "There's around about 7 to $8 million available for companies who are for-profit and expanding their workforce and need to train the new hires. I work with businesses who are expanding to try and get funds to help them train new hires. ."

Kerr spoke about the parameters of the grants.

"We have over the last 10 years had a number of fine companies, both very large but also quite small. It doesn't matter the size of the company, as long as they're hiring. So we have worked with the companies locally. It's a team effort and we try and put forward a training program for 12 months. The companies who want to hire and train people cannot train themselves, they can go to third party trainers or they can use FSW State College. It's totally up to them, and we've been very successful with a number of companies locally who are expanding great."

Several local companies have taken advantage of the latest grant money.

"In the last 12 months, we've had the following very fine companies who are expanding in Southwest Florida," said Kerr. "The Scotland transport near genomics, the Gartner company, Herc Rentals and smart Industries have all received training grants for hiring new staff and training."

Kerr said it doesn't matter the size of the company to be eligible for the grants.

"There's no limit on the size of the company. It's just a matter of how many people they think they're going to hire over 12 months. The hardest part is looking at the crystal ball and deciding just how many people do we need, what kind of training classes do we have to give these people? Then we can put together a quick response training grant application which goes to Tallahassee for approval. Normally within 60 days they will have an answer hopefully positively, and once that contract is signed they can start hiring and training."

In addition to QRT training, Kerr's department focuses on microcredentials for employees.

"Traditionally continuing education and corporate training has focused on workforce training, which is my department's main mission in life. So we are in that world where people may have jobs or would like to get jobs, but they need credentials. They may not have the time or the money to go through a two or four year university. Program, but we can offer them short classes of 6 to 8 weeks. They can be self-paced. They can even be online or face to face. And they come out of that with a skill which they can take to their future employers. So our focus is on short term workforce training to fit the workforce."

To learn more about corporate training and QRT grants, visit Florida Southwestern State College.

Karen Moore is publisher of the Southwest Florida Business Today, and special to WGCU.