Get Uncle Sam to Pay for Your CAD Classes

8 Jul, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Federal funding is available for CAD training.

If you're a CAD trainer, you might be eligible to get your classes funded by the Federal Government. By the same token, if you're looking for CAD training to ease back into the workforce, you might be able to get the government to pay for the CAD classes you need.

In 1998, Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which replaced what was previously known as the Job Training Partnership Act (1982). The WIA's purpose is to "increase the employment, retention, and earnings of participants, and increase occupational skill attainment by participants, and, as a result, improve the quality of the workforce, reduce welfare dependency." Accordingly, the act targets three segments — adults, dislocated workers (or those who've been laid off), and youth — and makes funding available through the local governments. (For more, see the U.S. Department of Labor's dedicated site.)

The Process
If you're a CAD trainer who'd like to become an authorized skill provider under the WIA, you should identify the local government branch responsible for the application process. In Connecticut, for example, the Department of Labor's (DOL) Project Management Office is in charge of the application process. In Utah, the Department of Workforce Services manages it, and in California it is administered by the Employment Development Department.

If you're a displaced worker or youth looking to acquire new CAD skills, the DOL-sponsored CareerOneStop Web site gives you a state-by-state listing of eligible trainers. Below are some CAD and CAD-related classes available under this program:

  • AutoCAD, offered by Brownson Technical School (Anaheim, California)

  • Advanced CAD, offered by Bramson ORT College (Forest Hills, New York)

  • Pro/ENGINEER, Alias Studio, and Rhino training, offered by Design Engine (Chicago, Illinois)

  • Machine tool technology, offered by Focus: Hope (Michigan, Illinois)

Ray Doeksen, manager of Design Engine, finds that the WIA referrals range from displaced drafters from manufacturing firms and engineers who have immigrated from foreign countries to women who have temporarily dropped out of the workforce to raise families. He explained, "Here in Illinois, [the displaced workers] would be directed to the agency that administers the WIA program from the unemployment office. After a series of qualifying interviews, they'd be given a voucher to give to a training facility like ours. We validate their attendance. Once they've completed their program, we submit the voucher and get reimbursed from the State."

Pros and Cons
Because the WIA is a government program managed at the local level, politics sometimes gets in the way. Design Engine's Doeksen noted that some state agencies are more territorial than others. They may, for instance, insist that both the training and the post-training job placement take place within the trainee's state. In Doeksen's view, this limits the trainee's learning options and his or her subsequent job search.

If you do decide to become a WIA-approved training vendor, you might consider the venue as a supplementary income rather than a primary source. "We don't rely on the WIA program as our bread and butter. Our main income is corporate training," said Doesksen. "To be honest, WIA students could be more challenging, because they have more to learn."

Training seekers are also encouraged to research the background and reputation of the school thoroughly. Doeksen observed, "Some trainers cannot exist without the WIA sending them a stream of students. To them, students are worth $3,800 [or whatever the allowable amount is] apiece." As a result, some get away with providing marginal training to meet the requirement, undermining the integrity of the WIA program.

(If you're a trainer who provides WIA-funded classes, or a student who has been in such a class, we'd like to hear from you. Please share your experience at the Cadalyst Discussion Forum / Tech Forum: MCAD / CAD Training Under the WIA. You must first register to post on the forum.)