Wednesday, February 28, 2024

White: Upskill your employees at no charge

by BIZ Magazine

Beginning in July 2022, a new financial assistance program that is often referred to a TOPS for adults will launch in the state of Louisiana.  The M.J. Foster Promise Program, named in honor of former Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, is a state fund that will provide financial support for students to earn credentials that align to high-demand jobs in growing industry sectors in Louisiana. The fund is capped at $10.5 million in this inaugural year, so awards will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.  All public two-year community and technical colleges in Louisiana are eligible training providers as well as accredited proprietary schools licensed by the Board of Regents.

For employers in the targeted industry sectors, including construction, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, and transportation and logistics, consider this an incentive to upskill your existing entry level employees who show potential for growth within your company.  Use this program as a way to show your employees you care about their professional growth, and you want to help them invest in their futures.  Most community and technical colleges now offer critical training programs in nontraditional hours, as the traditional student for them is one that is over 21 and has a job, so consider offering flex time for your employees that want to pursue training under the program.  

There are eligibility requirements for the program, it is not intended for every adult; the goal here is to remove the financial barrier that is often the one thing holding back adults who do want to improve their skills. The program is for Louisiana residents 21 or older and who meet the following criteria:

1. Meet a family income that does not exceed 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (see below) or be unemployed or underemployed for six months prior to receiving grant.

Household of 1 = $38,640

Household of 2 = $52,260

Household of 3 = $65,880

Household of 4 = $79,500

Household of 5 = $93,120

2. Have earned a high school diploma or equivalent or co-enroll in a qualified program of study and in a program to earn high school credential.

3. Have not previously earned an undergraduate degree at the associate level or above.

4. Be a Louisiana resident and U.S. Citizen.

5. Commit to reside in Louisiana one year after completion and to perform 20 hours of community service, an internship, or a mentorship annually to maintain the award.

Incarcerated individuals and those who have been convicted of any crime of violence are prohibited from receiving M.J. Foster Promise funds.

The program will serve as a “last dollar” award, which means all applicants will be required to complete the FAFSA to determine eligibility for other sources of federal aid or demonstrate eligibility for federal aid. The Promise funds would apply to any balances after federal, state, or institutional aid has been disbursed, so award amounts will differ student by student.

In this hyper competitive environment for talent faced by employers, showing your employees that you want to help them grow in their professional development is one way to stand out from the crowd and likely increase retention. To view the list of qualified training programs, which can range from a technical certificate to an associate’s degree, visit: https://mylosfa.la.gov/students-parents/scholarships-grants/mjfoster/

Angie White, COO of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, is a certified economic developer and has directed NLEP’s workforce initiatives since 2008.