SIKESTON -- Those involved with the Bootheel Regional Training Group since its beginning seven years ago have always known it is a valuable resource. And when funding was pulled last year, they proved that to the Missouri Legislature, too.
"This customized training group was formed for larger employers to pool their money and their employees' time to more efficiently train their employees," said Missy Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, of which the BRTG is a subgroup. "It allows employers to better the existing workforce."
From its beginning seven years ago until fall 2007, the Department of Workforce Development fully funded the training. But when the funding was dramatically cut to 30 percent last year, leaders in the group rallied to get the $50,000 reinstated, including a trip to the Capitol.
"While we were still fighting the battle, we didn't think we were going to win the war," said Marshall. "It totally shocked us (when the money was reinstated.)"
And on Wednesday morning, the BRTG held its monthly meeting, which coincided with the fall course kickoff. They had a refresher on the funding requirements and learned the new way to sign up for courses covering computer skills, leadership/management skills and maintenance skills.
"We hope the information we provide to you today will help you choose some of these classes," said Leslie Hardy, co-chair of the group.
Lorrie Baird, co-chair, noted there are new class offerings next year. She also encouraged representatives to come to those monthly meetings for updates and to discuss the classes in progress, plus suggestions. "If you have any ideas or needs that we need to address, maybe we can propose that to the group," she said.
Marshall agreed, saying the BRTG wants to hear feedback. "In past years, some instructors have gotten bad reviews, and we don't rehire them," she said. But good feedback is wanted, too.
Also at the meeting, attendees learned the new way to sign up for classes on the Web -- and monitor how many spots are left.
Marshall and Pam Tibbs, administrative assistant, gave a brief tutorial on how to use the database recently created.
"This is an idea that came out of the monthly meetings, because we were having trouble finding a way to keep track of who was in what course and who needed to be billed what," said Marshall. "I think in the long run, it's really going to pay off for us as an organization," said Marshall.
She said it is the only such database in the state she is aware of.
The Web page can be found by going to www.sikeston.net and clicking on BRTG.
"As you can see, there is a brief description, the date, the time, and how many seats are left," said Marshall. Those interested can click a link for the full description, and also register online.
Bud Joyner, training coordinator, who is dean of Career Education and Workforce Development at Three Rivers Community College, spoke about the funding requirements for FY09, as well as requirements to receive matching funds from the DWD.
"You need to start thinking about that now," he said. "But the easiest thing is to use (for the base of the match) is the salary and benefits for the employees going through the training, especially if you're paying them to go."
He suggested company representatives coordinating the training come up with a spreadsheet now to include the employees' names, class, hours, and the cost paid and update it frequently.
Travel expenses and a portion of the training coordinator's salary were also suggested. "It's not hard to come up with," said Joyner.
He also gave a review of the numbers from 2008 training.
"Last year, since the funding changed quite a bit and companies had to start paying a portion of the training, we were kind of concerned," he said. "A lot of you had your budgets in place and were very restricted to how many you could send."
There were 30 less participants, despite an added course.
Last year's total training expenses were $57,285, with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education paying for half, the DWD picking up 30 percent of the tab, and the companies who took advantage of the training paying the remaining 20 percent.
In total, $153 was spent per person per class, with the company's out-of-pocket expense of $46.
"That's really good," said Joyner. Although it wasn't completely paid for, it came at a much lower price than training on the open market would be, he said.
"And the training this group does, as far as I'm concerned, is very high-quality training. I don't feel like a penny of this money is being wasted," he continued
Marshall agreed, and encouraged all companies to send employees to applicable courses.
"The curriculum for this fall is outstanding and you're crazy if you don't take advantage of this," she said.
Anyone with questions about the BRTG or courses offered can call the SACC at 471-2498.