Marquis Group Frequently Asked Questions

State vs. Federal Funding Programs—General Classifications

What are State-Funded Direct Reimbursement Programs?


These programs are typically accessed by submitting an application directly to the program, entering into a formal contract with the program, and then submitting administrative reporting forms to receive reimbursements for approved training. These programs tend to be the most-flexible in supporting the customized training needs of a business. We commonly provide consulting services for these types of programs. The FAQ's provided below on eligible types of training and costs generally relate to these programs.

These programs are typically housed under the state economic development department, state department of labor, or a specially-created stand-alone state agency. These programs frequently receive their funds from a direct appropriation during the legislative session, state statutes that direct a small portion of state unemployment tax collections, or the issuance of special purpose bonds. [close]

What are State-Funded Cost Avoidance Programs?


These programs are typically structured in one of the following manners:

  1. Community College Programs - For these programs, the community college applies to the funding source in partnership with the business to support business training needs. The community college serves as the fiscal agent, the funds flow to the community college, and the approved training is paid by the college directly, thus allowing the business to avoid the cost. Depending on the state, there is a wide discrepancy between the flexibility of the program to support the customized training needs of the business. The more flexible programs allow the college to subcontract preferred vendors and internal instructors, while others are limited to training delivered directly by the community college. Even under the more flexible programs, it is commonly a negotiation process with the college regarding the extent of delivery by the college vs. other instructors. Ownership of developed curriculum and proprietary concerns are also common issues that need to be addressed. We periodically provide consulting services for these programs, representing the interests of the business during training plan development and then serving in a project management capacity once funding is awarded.
  2. Direct Service Programs - A limited number of states have programs where a stand-alone agency is the funding source and directly provides agreed-upon training/hiring services to the business at no cost. These programs are generally geared to support net new job creation projects. The scope of services generally offered by these programs includes job profiling, recruitment and screening, curriculum development, pre-employment training, and limited post-employment training. These programs usually have an existing instructor network and/or leverage the community college system where needed. Since these are "full service" programs, we do not provide consulting services for these programs as our ability to add value is limited due to the structure of these programs.

These programs receive their funding in the same manner as the state-funded direct reimbursement programs. [close]

What are Special Federal Programs through the U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL)?


The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) arm of the US DOL periodically rolls out specialized funding opportunities where a pool of funds is released on a competitive basis to applicants. The availability of these funds is announced via the Federal Register and can be found on the US DOL Website. Examples of past periodic programs include the H-1B Technical Skills Training Grants, High-Growth Initiative, WIRED, Community-Based Job Training Grants, and Green Capacity Building Grants. Applicants for these opportunities are generally state/local governments, public institutions or non-profits, in consortium with a wide scope of partners that may include for-profit businesses. Not since the sunset of the H-1B Technical Skills Training Grants many years ago have we seen a special US DOL program allow a private business to serve as the applicant.

Due to the number of required consortium partners and support letters, these tend to be highly complex proposals to develop (commonly 50 to 80 pages), and often less than 20% of applications are funded due to significant demand. For the reasons stated above and because the targeted and infrequent nature of these opportunities, we generally do not feel they are a good fit to support a typical customized business training project. We do monitor US DOL announcements and steer clients into consortiums when/where warranted. We have written US DOL proposals and performed subcontracted administration for these special grants in the past, but they are not a focus area for our services.

The US DOL has also taken a more regional approach in recent years, limiting the ability for funds to be applied nationwide for a particular grant. Additionally, a common misconception is that a company can apply for a federal grant that will support training nationwide. [close]

What is Statutory Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Funding?


Most federal funding is provided through WIA statutory funding streams. Under a formula allocation, training funds are passed from the US DOL through state workforce investment boards to the local workforce investment areas. Under these local workforce investment boards are one-stop centers, which are commonly known as your local unemployment office. These statutory funds are targeted to assist disadvantaged youth and adults, as well as dislocated workers. Although WIA receives billions of funding annually, these funds tend to be more individually-focused vs. directly benefiting a business. For example, a dislocated worker can pick from a menu of approved training courses using his/her Individual Training Account (ITA) to select training in a new occupation. As such, we don't consider statutory WIA funds a viable option for supporting a typical customized employer training project. As discussed following, discretionary WIA funds can sometimes be a viable option, depending on the state. [close]

What is Discretionary Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Funding?


As explained above, most federal funding is provided through WIA statutory funding streams and becomes fairly limited in their allowable use towards targeted populations. During this formula allocation process the WIA statutes allow a percentage of these allocated funds to be reserved for more discretionary statewide-activity purposes. Quite a few states, particularly in the Southeast, have created formalized programs to support incumbent worker training projects. Often times, these programs look and feel similar to a typical state-funded direct reimbursement programs. One downside to these programs is that award amounts tend to be capped below that of a good state-funded program due to overall funding constraints. Sometimes the access point for these programs is at the state-level, and sometimes at the local workforce board level. Since these programs can be a viable option to support customized employer training needs we do provide consulting support for these programs. [close]

What are Private Foundation Programs?


Certain private charitable foundations support a broad range of activities that can extend to training. These funding opportunities are commonly reserved for non-profit organizations that provide specific types of training to targeted or disadvantaged groups of individuals. Accordingly, we do not view these types of programs as a viable opportunity to support the customized training needs of a for-profit business, and therefore do not provide consulting services for these programs. [close]

Common Questions on Eligible Types of Training and Costs

What types of training are attractive for funding?


At the core, customized training grant programs aim to support job creation, retention, and/or upgrading of transferable employee skills. Hence, fundable training initiatives are generally those that support those primary program objectives and enhance the competitiveness of the business. Technical job-specific skills training of new hires or training related to major capital/technology upgrades are commonly attractive for funding. Moreover, continuous improvement initiatives such as Six Sigma, Lean, etc. are also attractive for funding under many programs. Programs tend not to support mandated training such as OSHA and Diversity (although some will allow a blended inclusion subject to limitations). From a workforce perspective, programs are primarily focused on serving front-line workers (e.g., production, engineers, & supervisors) and generally shy away from supporting executive-level employees. [close]

What types of costs are supported with funding?


Although there are exceptions, the most common funding scenario involves the funding program supporting all or a portion of the direct training costs, with the company supporting the indirect costs such as trainee wages. The direct instructional cost (e.g., vendor instruction charges or internal instructor wages) is the most common expenditure, but programs vary widely when it comes to other direct costs such as curriculum development, eLearning purchases, instructor travel, training materials, etc. As explained under the computer-based training (CBT) question, curriculum development presents a number of practical challenges for realizing reimbursement even when a program has the capability to support this type of cost. Similar to trainee wages, other indirect training costs such as trainee travel are commonly considered part of the company's in-kind contribution, and thus not supported with grant funds. [close]

Is computer-based training (CBT) eligible for funding?


With shrinking corporate training budgets and robust CBT options, more companies are moving towards broader offerings of CBT. Although the training courses delivered via CBT platforms commonly fall into a fundable category of training, various issues may circumvent the ability to cover CBT with grant funds. A few of these potential issues are:

  • Difficult to assign cost - Companies often purchase CBT under a master agreement. Since programs will only support trainees at the site(s) funded, it is often difficult to allocate and support the cost attributable to a site.
  • Timing of purchase - Most grant programs can only support costs incurred after the funding contract is formally established. Often times, the CBT is purchased in advance of the funding contract, and thus, is not within the eligible reporting period.
  • Cost vs. benefit of reporting - Periodically, the cost per person for large block CBT purchases is minimal. In such instances, the required administrative reporting and trainee data needed may outweigh the benefit of including the CBT under the grant. [close]

Is soft skill training eligible for funding?


Although most program prefer to support "hard" more technical job-specific training, some do support soft skill training (e.g., leadership development), particularly when it is not the dominant type of training in a training plan. There are programs that have firm restrictions on supporting soft skill training, and one-on-one coaching/mentoring is rarely supported with funding. A multi-day on-site leadership class that is tailored specifically to the company's needs and targeted for mid-level management may be fundable, depending on the program. Some programs will apply restrictions on the level of soft-skill training that can be funded (e.g., can't account for more than 10% of the funding request). [close]