Stay Competitive by Upskilling Your Workforce (National Workforce Development Month)


Video Transcript​​

[Moises Ramirez]: All right, good morning, everyone. Good morning. It looks like we're all pretty eager to start, so we'l​l go ahead and get started. Welcome to Stay Competitive by Upskilling Your Workforce, the seventh installment of our Train Local Grow Global webinar series. We have a lot of really great information to cover with you today, so just hang tight. All right, so originally started in 2005 by the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals. The U. Senate passed a resolution in 2022, naming September as Workforce Development Month. This month highlights the importance of investing in education, training, and career advancement of the US workforce as crucial to our ability to compete in the global economy and to increase economic opportunity at an individual level.

And that is just what we're here to discuss today. In today's fast-changing economy, businesses need a competitive advantage to keep up with challenges and stay successful. Training and development have proven positive impacts on employees' success and retention. The Dallas College Ascend institute partners with businesses to develop customized training programs for new and existing employees that align with your current and future business needs. This session will explore customized training successes and how eligible organizations can use skill development funds and skills for small business grants to cover the cost of training. Now, before we get started, just a few housekeeping matters.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them on the chat window found on the right-hand side of your screen. We do ask that you turn off your cameras and turn off your mic during the presentation. All questions will be addressed at the end of today's presentation. If for whatever reason we can't address your questions because of time constraints, there is going to be a follow-up email sent to all of today's attendees. In that email, we're going to have a copy of today's recording, a copy of today's presentation slides, and contact information for all of today's presenters. So, thank you for your patience with that.

Now, with that said, my name is Moses Ramirez and I'm the Director of Business Engagement here at Dallas College. Today's presentation is one of our initiatives to increase awareness of the 50 plus business services offered here at Dallas College. We have a lot. And so today we have three fantastic presenters lined up and we'll be joined later by two guest speakers. Let me go ahead and start by introducing the first three presenters.

So first, we actually have Konley Kelley. Kon is a Project Leader of Business Development at Dallas College’s Ascend Institute. Originally from California, he worked in the advertising and entertainment industry before moving to Texas. Kon was hired by Dallas College, formerly Richland College, in 1997. From the start, his role revolved around meeting workforce needs and working directly with area businesses as a training provider. As a member of the business development team in Dallas College’s Ascend Institute, Kon enjoys meeting employers and learning about the products that they make, the services they offer, and the workplace culture. If the college can come alongside and offer resources and training expertise, Kon is ready and eager to help. Longevity in this role is an asset with him being able to draw on years of experience and experiences and examples of training solutions that worked for prior clients in the past.

Next up, we have Julie Carey. Julie is Project Leader of Corporate Resource Management at Dallas College’s Ascend Institute. She has over 20 years of experience in workforce training, including 10 years of writing and managing skills training grants for local employers. She's skilled at identifying training gaps and developing training programs designed to upskill or reskill your workforce to fill those gaps. Her passion is in helping people learn new skills to advance their careers and improve their quality of life. Excuse me.

And lastly, but certainly not least, we have Kimberly Wilkins. Kim began her employment in Dallas College in 2001 in her current position with Dallas College’s Ascend Institute as Project Leader, Client Relationship Management. She is responsible for creating and maintaining business and industry relationships derived from corporate strategies, engagements, partnerships, and training opportunities, working closely with the business development team and creating lifelong partnerships with those businesses. In her 23 years with Dallas College, she's had the opportunity to work with diverse populations, adults, and youth in workforce training certificate programs such as information technology, machine operator, logistics, EKG, EEG, and rock on college preparation. Her most impressive professional achievement has been overseeing and managing multiple successful skill development fund manufacturing consortium grants, partnering with local manufacturing companies, Texas Workforce Commission, and Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas. Increasing skills and wages by training over 6,000 manufacturing employees since 2009. Wow. So, all right, I'm done talking. With all that said, I'm excited to get started. Kim, go ahead and take it away. Oh, Kim, you're still on mute, sorry.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Sorry about that. You think we'd remember that by now. Thank you. Thank you for the introductions and thank you to Danielle and Moy for coordinating and producing these informative webinars. We are excited to present today in support of Workforce Development Month and to celebrate all workforce going into Labor Day weekend. A few years back, our chancellor, Dr. Lonon, once said on becoming one college and making awareness of our programs and services, he said, we are going to lift the lid and release the greatness. And that is what we are doing here today, sharing a piece of Dallas College greatness with you and how we work with employers in upskilling our workforce. So, thank you everyone for attending this morning. Let's take a look at our agenda. We're going to have an overview of upskilling, what it is and the benefits. My colleagues will talk about how Dallas College Ascend Institute provides customized upskilling of employees through contract training and corporate workforce grants. Next, we will have two great speakers, what we like to call live testimonials, both speaking on how we've partnered on projects in upskilling employees. And lastly, if we have time, we'll have Q&A. So, let's dive into our topic.

What is upskilling? Upskilling enables employees to strengthen their existing skills or develop new skills to advance in their current career or position. Upskilling is a continuous process of building skills. When a workforce has up-to-date skills, businesses have the ability to get ahead of the curve and not just survive but thrive in meeting market demands. So, what are some of the benefits of upskilling? Let's look at benefits for the organization first and then we'll look at benefits for the employee. You will see most of these work hand in hand and are mutual in benefiting both parties. Upskilling helps increase employee retention by investing in employees through upskill training. Not only is the value of the organization increased, but it also gives employees a sense of feeling that they are valued and have a place in the company's future. Upskilling helps identify and minimize skills gaps in the workplace. When identifying and addressing skills gaps, through training, upskilling is less expensive and more cost-effective solution than going out and hiring new employees and that leads into the next one, saves money. According to SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost to recruit a new hire is $4,700 and the process takes an average of 41 days, and this amount can go up depending on the role or position. Hiring a new employee involves multiple resources across recruiting, interviewing, onboarding and all the training stages. Upskilling helps foster a learning culture and supports employee's career goals. This is creating a supportive learning environment.

To stay competitive, it's important for organizations to develop and invest in their employees. Upskilling should be promoted at every level. That includes managers and supervisors. And we all know we've seen an increased need in leadership, soft skills and supervisor bootcamp training. Upskilling helps attract new talent. Having customized upskill training programs will attract candidates with a growth mindset. We are seeing employers hiring more on a person's willingness and desire to learn, grow and be trained. Upskilling helps build a competitive advantage. We've all heard the term knowledge is power. When employees have relevant skills, it will strengthen an organization's position in the market. Upskilling helps increase employees' productivity and efficiency. To get the best output from employees, they need the best workplace training they can get. And last, upskilling helps organizations better prepare for contingencies for those emergencies or unexpected events that may occur. Now let's look at upskilling benefits for employees. You will notice many of them are similar and reciprocal in benefiting the organization. Upskilling improves satisfaction and morale, learning opportunities. It boosts productivity and efficiency. Upskilling enhances problem solving, critical thinking skills. It helps the employee be more adaptable and flexible, improves quality of work, able to take on responsibilities and challenges, and it increases internal advancement opportunities. Overall, the benefits of upskilling employees not only boost knowledge, but it increases a feeling of confidence, value, and investment in the organization. At this time, I will transition the presentation to Kon Kelley, and he will speak more on upskilling through customized training. Kon?

[Konley Kelley]: My mouse went, froze, here we go. Am I up? Very good. Can you hear me, okay? All right, good morning. Everybody ready for a three-day weekend? Dallas College is in the business of lifelong learning. You've heard that this morning. This also puts us in the unique position to provide learning opportunities, which Kimberly defined as upskilling, for employees working at local companies in the Dallas area. Dallas College is coming up on six decades of being in the education business. Over the years, we've accumulated countless resources, including curriculum, training talent, college staff focused on employer hiring and training needs, and we work with our students to get them job ready and upskill them after they get the job. But prior to transitioning to the one college system, the DCCCD primarily focused on businesses in the community surrounding each of its respective campuses.

Campuses had staff in my role, selling and delivering training in designated service areas. I think we served our clients well, but we weren't maximizing the potential of Dallas College to meet the diverse and full spectrum of upskilling needs in the Dallas business community. So, if you're an employer and we haven't met you yet, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the Ascend Institute powered by Dallas College. With the formation of the Ascend Institute in 2021, we've assembled a team that leverages our collective experience and wide range of training resources to better serve all businesses across Dallas County. We also benefit from being a part of the larger college's workforce and advancement division, which is doing program development, connecting students to job opportunities, providing labor market research, and meeting the operational needs of the Ascend Institute. Ascend is capable of assessing workforce needs, identifying skill gaps, providing customized training and delivering training on a schedule that is the best fit for an employer. Many of our clients prefer training held on site. Our trainers, call them our subject matter experts, find that being on site makes training and retention more successful. Training is hands-on and tailored to the work environment of the employee. And this is private group training at their place of work. Price is a factor too.

Our training is competitively priced. We can help employers expand their training, not their budgets. The quality of our trainers is evidenced by class evals, client feedback and repeat business, excuse me. Many of our trainers also help assess employer needs and visit companies beforehand. We hang on to the good trainers and keep them busy. Many have years of experience in the field they're teaching. I've been known to say to them, you're the rock stars and I get you the gigs. We also have a team at Ascend working with partner companies to access and make application for workforce training grants from state and local agencies. You're going to hear more about that from our colleague Julie. FY23 ended yesterday for Dallas College. So, we are about to have a good look at the second full year of Ascend being operational. It's too soon for data from August, but our record spanning September 1st, July 31st show twice the revenue, over 80 company partners served, 16,000 students trained and over 425,000 training hours. We were seeing an investment in training and that's a good thing for the economy, we know that. Next slide. Okay, oh, I don't think I advanced. The sample training menu on screen includes specific classes or programs that are best sellers. We know soft skills, also called professional behavior training is the low hanging fruit for the Ascend sales team. Many clients ask for leadership, team building and customer service classes or participate in a series of classes. We recommend a series so our trainers can spend extra time with their students and plan activities to reinforce the skills learned and build on those skills. I saw a remarkable demonstration of this when one of my trainers organized a certificate ceremony after a leadership series wrapped. Before the ceremony, she put up posters with the skills taught in each of the leadership modules of the series. She invited her students to write examples of how they used their skills on post-its. Then the students would stick their post-its on the corresponding modules poster. Soon, the posters were literally covered with post-its. It was a really powerful visual and I was sitting with company leadership watching this happen. If you don't see training you need on this slide, we maintain a Dallas College vendor pool with roughly 50 training partners ready to help Ascend find training solutions for our clients. If you request training from Ascend, the answer should always be yes. Chances are very good. We'll locate a training resource for you by tapping into our colleagues on the academic side, adjunct faculty, or our training partners. Another example, and we have a great client joining us on our webinar today, it happens to be his company. Several years ago, his company was acquired by a Swedish company. I was asked if I could provide a class in Swedish business etiquette. Of course, my answer was yes. I contacted a colleague in our travel and tourism hospitality division. She connected me to a noted expert author in international business etiquette. We hired this individual and delivered the training. These logos represent companies and organizations we collaborated with in some capacity in FY23. There's a story to tell behind every logo here. We don't have time for that and there's some pretty good ones, but I would just have to say we are privileged to serve these customers and call them training partners. Ascend team members are based at campuses and workforce training centers across Dallas. One of our colleagues, Lorraine Hijack, is at our Cedar Hill Center. I asked Lorraine to help me spotlight the Southern sector and how she does her outreach. She shared a long list of industry groups, committees, and events where she spends her time. Often acting in a leadership capacity, we share calendars and Lorraine is constantly on the move with lots of appointments. You have to be where your clients are. Lorraine gets this and is invested and embedded in her community. This has led to long-term partnerships with companies, nonprofits, and municipalities. These satisfied clients in turn refer more business to Lorraine. Hey Lorraine, you're a rockstar too, if you're out there watching. These logos are a few of the local state and federal agencies mentioned earlier. Julie will cover them in more detail. Ascend's headquarters is currently at our Garland Center near downtown Garland. The Garland Chamber of Commerce is co-located with us at the campus. The chamber organizes events and provides advocacy for the Dallas Counting Manufacturers Association, the DCMA, and the logos on the screen, were the training arm for the DCMA and the FAME chapter the chamber manages. I'm personally serving on three awesome committees through chambers. One is tech focused, and they're called the Tech Titans and their logos up there. Another that meets in Richardson is education focused and known for iDream, an annual virtual career day for RISD students. Also serve on a committee in the Garland Chamber that plans an annual event fundraising for nonprofit and faith-based organizations. You have to be where your clients are, and it always feels good to serve and give back. Julie, are you ready to take control?

[Julie Carey]: I'm going to take control. So, what if you know you need to upskill your workforce, but you just don't have it in your budget? Well, there's funding available to you in the form of grants. Dallas College partners with Texas Workforce Commission, Department of Labor, Department of Education, many different funding sources. Today, I'm going to spotlight two grants that are offered by Texas Workforce Commission, the Skills for Small Business grant and the Skills Development Fund. So, the Skills Development Fund is a job training program that has been offered by Texas Workforce Commission since 1996. It's a very successful program as evidenced by the numbers you see in the bottom right-hand corner here. They have spent over $450 million since 1996 on this particular program. Training employees at over 4,500 businesses.

It's successful and I expect it to continue because of its success. So, I believe it's going to be around for a while. Funding for this program actually comes from your state unemployment taxes. So, it's actually funding you've already paid into. It's a way for Texas to give back to you. They allocate approximately $40 million every year for the whole state of Texas to upskill the workforce. The Skills for Small Business program is a grant that is designed to support businesses with less than 100 employees. The Skills Development Fund grant allocates up to $2 million each year for this particular program to support small businesses in Texas. So how does it work? So, our team at Dallas College and the Ascend Institute will work with the business partners that are interested in participating, will help identify skills gaps and training that can help with those skills gaps. For the Skills for Small Business, the college will help identify open enrollment courses and assist the business with the application. For the Skills Development Fund grant, the college will work with subject matter experts to customize training for your business to make it specific to your business needs. We will also write the grant proposal and submit that to Texas Workforce Commission. And once the grants are approved, Dallas College serves as the fiscal agent and training provider for your training. So what employees are eligible for these grants? Full-time permanent employees residing in Texas who meet prevailing wage requirements.

Top executives don't qualify for the Skills Development Fund, but they do qualify for the Skills for Small Business as long as they're considered a payroll employee for that business. For the Skills Development Fund, the top executives don't qualify but anyone under them will qualify for training. The Skills for Small Business grant pays up to $900 for incumbent workers and pays up to $1,800 for any new hires you plan to hire during the course of the grant. And the Skills Development Fund will pay up to $2,000 per trainee regardless of if they're new or not. Okay, so what type of training is included? Well, for Skills for Small Business, it's typically our open enrollment courses that are offered to the public they can register for. There are no technical requirements. It can be credit classes or non-credit classes as long as it relates to the employee's job duties. For the Skills Development Fund, customized courses must include 75% technical and up to 25% non-technical. So, what's considered technical in this grant? Anything that's related to that particular business, their industry or the employee's job duties is considered technical. So, what's considered non-technical? All your soft skills such as leadership, communication, time management, things like that. So, we know that those are important as well and you can do up to 25% of your training in those particular skills. Well, what has Dallas College done this year in these grants? So, the Skills Development Fund grant, Dallas College in the past 12 months have served 20 employers. We've trained over 1,500 employees for a total of 39,268 total training hours. We've expended over $2 million worth of these grant funds this past year. And this is a list of the 20 employers that we've served. Oh, let me go back one. Just want to explain what this picture is. Texas Workforce Commission does a big check signing ceremony for every Skills Development Fund grant, which is always a very fun event. We typically have local and state dignitaries that come. The Texas Workforce Commissioner comes and signs the check. It's a big deal, so that's always fun to share. And then for the Skills for Small Business this year, we've served 10 employers, trained 190 employees for a total of 4,560 training hours as well. And these are some of the business partners we've had for the Skills for Small Business this year. So, we, like I said, I believe these grants are here to stay. They're very successful and we'd love to hear from y'all if y'all want more information on that. And now I'm going to pass it on to Kimberly.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Thank you, Julie and Khan, for sharing those services we offer to employers. Thank you. Now I have the pleasure to introduce our two guest speakers today. And I want to thank both of them for joining us and being great partners to work with and upskilling employees. Our first guest speaker is Sherri Clark. She works as an instructional coordinator in the Dallas College School of Law and Public Service. I have the honor of working with Sherri on this project she will be sharing with you. This project is a great example of how we collaborate with internal Dallas College teams in providing services to our business partners in upskilling employees. Sherri, here you go. You're on.

[Sheri Clark]: Good morning, everyone, good morning. Excited to be here and share with you all the program that Kimberly and I have been working on. Unfortunately, in today's world and in our climate, we have to prepare ourselves for events that occur not only in our professional world, but also in our personal world. And our two programs that we have address those needs as far as active shooter events and basic safety needs. And to give you a little idea about how our program came about, our chancellor with Dallas College was at an event with Judge Clay Jenkins of Dallas County. And Judge Jenkins was having a conversation with the chancellor, and they were talking about the needs for active shooter response training for civilians. And Judge asked the chancellor, he said, do you guys think you could offer something like this? Cause this is what we'd like to do for all Dallas County employees. And we're talking a little over 7,000 employees in this umbrella. And so, Dr. Lonon connected with my supervisor, Dr. Mike Walker, who's the provost over the School of Law and Public Service, who then reached out to me and says, Sheri, do you think we could do this? And of course, my optimistic, overzealous personality, I was like, of course we can. And so, from that moment on, the partnership just kind of evolved.

So, we've been working with Homeland Security and the Dallas County officials on this project. And I was connected with Kimberly and the Ascent Institute where we started crafting and putting together with her expertise and my experience in law enforcement and emergency management, developing a curriculum that was tailored specifically for the needs of our partner. And what the end result was, we ended up with a seven-hour course that is an online generated self-paced course for the employees that covers general workplace safety and L. And in that program, we cover an array of modules that are helpful for the employees in their work environment and their personal environment, such as bomb threats, professionalism in the workplace, general first aid, environmental safety. We do a recap on active shooting events to fire extinguisher use. So, we incorporate, there's a total of 12 modules within this course alone that address all those safety and health needs for the individuals. And then we have our actual Workplace Preparedness Active Shooter course. And this is a course that is, it's an eight-hour course, but four hours of that is online self-paced module training that walks the individuals through what they can do if they're ever faced to be in such an incident of that.

Not only to give them the skills and the attribute to know what to do, but also how can they be proactive in being preventative? What are some of the warning signs of an individual that might be posing a threat in that thing? And then we also dive into after you're involved in a situation, how does that affect you as an individual? And how do you cope and deal with understanding what you just went through as well and get past it in a healthy way? And the second portion of the training, we're actually doing a live face-to-face scenario where we set up the most realistic environment that we can so that they can exercise the skills that they learned during their online modules and let them kind of experience it in the most real fashion that they can to get an idea of how will you respond in these kinds of situations. And after those live scenario drills, we have a debriefing with them. How did you feel? Did you feel comfortable implementing the things that you learned? This has really been an exciting project. It's just, it's taken fuel and it's really moving forward. We're on our fourth cohort of this. We're starting on September the 11th and thus far we have 388 of the employees that have signed up for that cohort alone. So, we're really excited about that. And we're also excited to just offer this to other partners in the future because the need is there for us. And we're excited to be partnering and offering these courses for everyone. So, thank y'all for having me today and look forward to continuing the journey.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: All right, thank you Sheri. We have received such great feedback from the leadership and employees of Dallas County and with the continuous process improvements we are making, this project will just get better and better. And like Sheri said, our hope is that more businesses will want this training for their employees. They're great. Yes, thank you. Now I'd like to introduce our second guest speaker, Matt Buttacavoli. Matt Buttacavoli. Matt is currently the production manager with Epiroc Drilling Solutions. Epiroc has been a longtime business partner of Dallas College. We have partnered with Epiroc on multiple skills development fund grants and contract training opportunities. I had the privilege of working with Matt on the last manufacturing consortium grant I managed during the pandemic. His presentation today will be a great example of how we partner with external businesses in upscaling employees. So Matt, you're on, there you go.

[Matt Buttacavoli]: All right. Well, thank you for the great introduction, Kimberly and thank you for having me today. I'm very excited to be here and I appreciate the invitation so much. Today I'd like to talk to the group about how we've been able to take advantage of the grant and use it to upskill our workforce. But before we do that, if you will move to the next slide, I'll talk to you a little bit about our companies. You kind of get a framework for who we are. So, at Epiroc, we're a Swedish company as Kon said earlier, he alluded to the fact that we're a Swedish company. He did work with us many years ago when we got taken over. We were Ingersoll Rand at the time, I believe, and then acquired by Atlas Copco and now we're Epiroc. All the same company building drilling rigs in Garland for almost 40 plus years. So, we've been around a long time. Companies change hands, but a lot of the people are still here. We're located off of Chris Road. So, if you've driven by, you've probably seen us and wondered what we do. Well, we manufacture open pit mining equipment. These drills get assembled, they get tested and they get painted and then torn down and shipped all over the world. And then they get commissioned in open pit mines all over the globe. So, the workforce that we employ is very much a hands-on workforce. Our team does lots of assembly. It's very hands-on work, but our technology and our rigs have actually evolved over the years. We've gone from simple manual controls and now we're involved in full autonomous drilling.

So, the amount of technology and the innovation that has come on with our product over the years has really increased tremendously. And the workforce has had to adapt to that increase or that change. So, we've gone just to full scale with automation and our team is adapting as we go. So that's a little bit of background about us and about the type of people that we employ. I'd like to move to the next slide and talk about some of the training courses that we've offered our assembly workforce. So, the courses you'll see on the left there, blueprint reading, we've done electrical and hydraulic training. We've done some leadership training with some of our team leads as well as our supervisors. Root cause analysis, problem solving. Lean is huge in our organization as we try to really become the most efficient manufacturing facility we can. And then some safety training as well as some forklift training. So, we've been able to take full advantage of the skills development grant and a few times over and provide this great training to our employees. Some of the benefits that we've seen are just the reduced ready to work time. You can imagine when you're training an assembler or somebody in your production facility to learn how to build a drilling rig, it takes quite a bit of time. So, some of the training that we've been able to offer through Dallas College has really reduced the amount of time it takes to train our employees and get them ready to do the job that we hired them to do, which has been fantastic. There's just been an overall general improvement in the knowledge and the skillset with some of the, specifically the technical training, the electrical training and the hydraulics training. That's not something that is often taught.

So, we've been able to employ Dallas College to train our people and it's really been beneficial. Most of what we do on our machines is either mechanical, electrical or hydraulics. So, it's been a great way for them to learn those skills. We've seen an increased efficiency through the lean principles training. A lot of our employees are now talking in lean terms and they're applying their lean principles so that we can eliminate waste and become more efficient. I mentioned some improving technical skills. We've also seen some of our team leads rise the ranks. We've promoted one of our team leads through into a supervisor role because he was able to take some of this training, apply it and he really developed into a great supervisor. So, we've seen lots of benefits and we're really proud of our partnership with Dallas College. For the future, I think one of the things that I've heard today is just the amount of opportunities there are for more supervisor training and leadership training. So, I think that's something we'd like to explore more as we try to onboard more supervisors, as we grow our business, I think that'd be a really good way we can move forward. So, I'm excited about that opportunity and I'm really grateful to have the partnership. So, thank you for having me. And if there's any questions, feel free to let me know.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Thank you, Matt.

[Matt Buttacavoli]: You're welcome.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Thank you for being a part of our presentation today and being just such a great business partner to work with. And we do, we look forward to working on more projects with you and EpiRoc in the future.

[Matt Buttacavoli]: Excellent, thank you.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Thank you. So, as we close out our presentation, where do we begin? How do we start working with employers? And I love this quote, “an employee that is eager to learn and grow is an organization's most valuable asset. To retain your best people, you must invest in them.” The Dallas College Ascend Institute and our workforce and advancement teams can assist employers every step of the way. We want to be your number one provider for your talent, training and talent needs. So here are some steps to get started working with us. Let's research those industry labor market trends, demands and occupational data. Know what innovations are in the pipeline within your industry. Let's identify skills gaps by assessing your employees' current skills. Know your employees, know their natural strengths and talents. Do they have that aptitude and that growth mindset to build upon? Let's develop and implement customized upskilling training programs. Let us bring in subject matter experts to assist in developing your curriculum aligned with your organization's needs and goals. And last, let us help you create an ongoing learning culture. Keep your workforce learning the skills needed to stay competitive. Through partnerships with Dallas College, we can help employers create that continuous learning, training and talent pipeline. Okay, and now I'm going to pass the presentation on to Moy. And I think we may have some time for Q and A.

[Moises Ramirez]: Yeah, thank you. And before we get started with that, I want to go ahead and thank all of you guys, all the presenters. This was some fabulous information. So, thank you for that. I don't necessarily see any questions posted on our chat. I want to go ahead and take this moment to just tell all of our attendees. At this point, please feel free to turn on your mics if you'd like and speak up and ask a question. I do have a couple of questions that I think I want to go ahead and ask of the group if that's all right. I actually want to start with Matt. I think this is kind of a unthought question, but out of curiosity, how did you and your company end up hearing about the grant and what steps did you take in order to take advantage of the grant to get started?

[Matt Buttacavoli]: That's a good question. I'm not sure I have all the answers for you, but I know our human resources department, specifically our HR manager at the time, her name was Tanya. She was actively working; I think directly with Dallas College to make sure that we were able to utilize the grant. She was familiar with it from I think previous roles that she had. So, she worked directly with the team there. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how the partnership developed at that time. It was prior to me actually coming into the role as the production manager. Prior to me being in this role, I spent a lot of time in engineering and marketing. So, I wasn't really in tune with what we were doing with our production workforce in terms of, you know, scaling and upscaling. But, you know, since I stepped into this role, I've been more actively involved, and it's been a great partnership. Oh, perfect.

[Moises Ramirez]: Excellent. To me, it sounds like it's more than anything about building that relationship or establishing a relationship with Dallas College and then moving forward from there to determine what the next steps would be.

[Matt Buttacavoli]: Absolutely. I'd also like to say that we identified a need, right? And, you know, in identifying that need, we tried to figure out, well, how are we going to meet the need? And, you know, doing the research, you know, Dallas College has a lot of information about what services they provide. And, you know, I think it was just really easy. You know, we're located in Garland. You're right here in Garland as well. So, it's, yeah, it was just made a lot of sense.

[Moises Ramirez]: Perfect. One more question for you, Matt. If you looked at the company before starting with some of these trainings and then after, how would you end up judging your retention rate for employees? And then, you know, additionally, maybe how would you end up judging how satisfied or happy they are in the workplace?

[Matt Buttacavoli]: Yeah, two very good questions. Typically, our retention rate here at Epiroc has historically been very good. And I would say it's probably even better as a result of the upskilling. We've been able to bring on people that maybe we wouldn't have hired prior to the program. Maybe they didn't have the skills that we were looking for, but knowing that we could, you know, give them those skills through training really, you know, helped us make those decisions. And a lot of those folks are really grateful for the opportunity. I think oftentimes you feel people, find people that are willing to do the work, but they just need to, you know, the training. They just need some development. They just need somebody to work with them, mentor them, you know, help them. So, when you find those willing people, you want to do that. You want to develop them, train them, and get them the skills that they need so that they can continue to contribute to your organization. And when you do that, you find that they want to stick around, and they want to grow within the company. A company like ours is really, really heavily devoted to making sure that our employees are able to, you know, move throughout their career with whatever they want to do, whether it be, you know, moving within production or even getting out of production, trying to do something else within the organization. So, yeah, I would say that it's been a very, very good thing that we've done to make sure that we, you know, continue to retain our people.

[Moises Ramirez]: And I'm sure you would agree that, you know, most employees just want to know that their employer appreciates them. And what better way to show them that than, you know, to help them become better, right?

[Matt Buttacavoli]: Oh, absolutely.

[Moises Ramirez]: Thank you for that. So, and I welcome any of you guys to answer this next question, but what kind of skills are currently in demand? What is it that you're seeing out there that people are asking for?

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Kon, you want to-

[Konley Kelley]: Yeah, well, if you've heard the phrase, companies will hire for hard skills and fire for soft skills, that's true. I think we've sold more soft skills training than anything else I can think of in the time I've been here. And a lot of people when they go to school, go to college, I've heard this, they wish they had that training in school. They're trained to be technical and have the skill sets do what they do, but they're not really trained to interact with people. And if your team can't function, you're not going to be successful. So that does well. And I heard you mentioned the lean processes. We have a, we actually have an 80-hour lean class going on at one company right now. So, anything that make companies more efficient, and eliminate waste is good. And cyber is big right now, IT classes, Julie's got a big IT brand. So, we're just meeting the need.

[Moises Ramirez]: Excellent. We have a question in the chat. So, and again, I welcome anybody to chime in for this one. Has there been a time when you've had to say no to a client about a particular training that they wanted to do?

[Julie Carey]: Not very often.

[Konley Kelley]: I say no.

[Julie Carey]: Yeah, not very often.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: I like what Kon said. Usually our first answer is yes, we can do that. And then we find creative solutions. Dallas College has so many resources from all our sister divisions and workforce and advancement and the schools of, and so just a great pool of faculty and quality faculty and vendors and adjunct. And so usually our first answer is yes, we can do that. And then we work our creative magic and collaborate and bring everyone in and find ways to do it. And it usually always ends up and works out. And the clients are happy.

[Moises Ramirez]: Yeah, and I've seen that firsthand. I know that sometimes when I'm out in the community, a lot of clients that I meet with have worked with the Ascend Institute and they have nothing but praises. So, looking at things from a small company or that wants to end up growing and expanding, sometimes they feel like maybe they just wouldn't qualify, or they don't know what to look for. To companies like that, that haven't taken that first step and are hesitant to really look into that. What would you say to them? And what are some of the common challenges that you see some of these companies facing when trying to take advantage of these resources?

[Julie Carey]: So, for small businesses, I would say the first thing you should do is reach out to us. Like we said, we hardly ever say no. We are very creative in coming up with solutions for you. So, the best thing to do is just first reach out and let's have a conversation. You're not committed to anything by talking to us. So, let's just have a conversation. One of the challenges I would say is time. Right now, particularly companies are needing employees and so in order to do training during the workday, they have to come off of their job. So, part of that is just finding solutions to that, doing it at the end of the day, or if there's two shifts, we may do a training at the end of one shift and at the beginning of another so that people aren't having to leave their job for too long. Or so I think right now time is a challenge and that's simply because of the way the workforce is right now. Everyone is kind of desperate for employees. But like we've mentioned all along, the best way to invest in them is to offer them training, to upskill them, show them that you're going to invest in them, and they'll stick around.

[Moises Ramirez]: Yeah, thank you. No, very well put. And another question that we have, we actually have two more, but first off, are you currently looking for any corporate trainers?

[Konley Kelley]: Yeah, absolutely.

[Julie Carey]: All the time.

[Konley Kelley]: Retiring, people maybe have a flexible schedule that can work with us. Most of our classes aren't really long in duration. So, we may not be able to fill our whole month, but we can use them when we need the most strategically. So, we just need to hear from them and connect with this talent because they can give back their knowledge to the next generation of workers.

[Moises Ramirez]: And obviously the first step in order for them to take advantage of this is to connect with you guys.

[Julie Carey]: And who makes a good faculty? I mean, you may not even realize you may be a good faculty member. A lot of our, like he mentioned, a lot of our classes are short term classes are not semester long classes. So, it may be something, if you're an expert at your job and you're looking to either give back or make some extra money, we'd love to have you just come from time to time to teach a class. If you're retired or you want to give back, those are the best instructors.

[Moises Ramirez]: You know, I never even thought of that, but that's actually really well put. People that are retired or they just want to give back to the community, absolutely. So, another question is from the $40 million budget, the annual budget that was discussed, what percentage of that goes to soft skills and hard skills? And from an academic standpoint, how can faculty in the classroom, how can faculty in the classroom will help advance up skills? So yeah, let's start with that, the first portion of that, hard skills and soft skills.

[Julie Carey]: Okay, so for the grants, the Texas Workforce Commission grants, only up to 25% of the funds can be spent on soft skills. So, I would say 75% of the skills development fund is typically spent on hard technical skills. And then no more than 25% can be spent on soft skills. Now, I don't have the exact percentages. So, this is, you know, just based on what the requirements are on the grant, the skills for small business can be all soft skills. So, they don't have any of those technical requirements, but that's only 2 million out of the $40 million given each year for skills for small business. So, I would say probably 25% is a good estimate of what's spent on soft skills.

[Moises Ramirez]: And then the second part of that is from an academic standpoint, how can faculty in the classroom help to advance the upskilling?

[Konley Kelley]: Well, we do talk to the schools of and part of that to the deans that were over the departments of the individual colleges. And it's really just important to connect with the deans because often they have the access to their own faculty. They may know who is more available. They may refer us to somebody, but they can balance, I think, doing some corporate training, hopefully with their academic schedule. A lot of us continue education instructors, I know, teach at night. Unfortunately, our classes are mostly day classes, but maybe we can still work out something in the schedule. We've done some online training more during the pandemic, which is also a way to, you know, not have to drive out to a company and spend that time in the car. And face-to-face is great, but online sometimes is a better option. And that works for trainer schedules too.

[Moises Ramirez]: Actually, this next question is for Sheri. Sheri, earlier you ended up outlining that program that you helped develop. Were there any challenges in that process and how have you measured success with that developed training?

[Sheri Clark]: So, yes, I mean, of course you have, you know, hurdles when you're putting together, you know, a program of this magnitude that you're talking about reaching a wide scope across Dallas County. So, we did have some hurdles and Kim and I, we just put our nose to the grindstone and, you know, looked for ways and resources that we could overcome those hurdles to enhance the experience for the student, make it a smoother process. And then, of course, in my background in developing the curriculum itself, I had a lot of outside, you know, resources that I could rely on as well from my past work experience that helped, you know, guide me and give me some insight and the direction that I was going with it. And then we've been measuring success by we do student surveys and so forth, and we're getting a lot of feedback from the employees that have completed the course. And so far, when it comes to the content itself and the course material, they're just all hands up, loving it. They talk about how they totally see how they can apply this in their professional world and their personal world. You know, going to the grocery store nowadays, you know, we're all having to look over our shoulder and be prepared for situations. So, they've really showed, you know, gratitude with that.

[Moises Ramirez]: Perfect. Well, we have five, well, four minutes left. I think I'll just go ahead and leave everybody with this. And in the last couple of minutes, do you guys have anything that you'd like to get across or a message that you would like to give to our community? What would your message be to them?

[Konley Kelley]: I guess I'll start if you don't mind. I just think there's a lot of noise out there, a lot of other training options. We're a fixture, the Dallas community, Dallas colleges. Think of us, like Kimberly said, first choice for training. We want to work with you and we're going to offer you some good training at a good price or access to state grants. Not every training organization can do that, but we can. So please consider us and training our employees is the best investment you can make.

[Moises Ramirez]: Okay, excellent. Well, again, I want to thank all of our presenters and including our guest presenters. Thank you all very much. Thank you to our attendees. And I will be sending out a follow-up email with all the needed information. Feel free to reach out to any of us in case you have any questions. And once again, thank you all. And until next time.

[Konley Kelley]: Thank you.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Thank you.

[Julie Carey]: Thank you so much for having us.

[Konley Kelley]: Have a great three-day weekend.

[Kimberly Wilkins]: Thank you.

[Sheri Clark]: Bye-bye.