Competing for new jobs in a bad economy, states are paying employers’ training costs, reports the New York Times. North Carolina is a leader, using its strong community colleges to design and teach customized curricula.
KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Some of Caterpillar’s newest factory workers are training inside a former carpet warehouse here in the heart of tobacco country. In classrooms, they click through online tutorials and study blueprints emblazoned with the company’s logo. And on a mock factory floor, they learn to use wrenches, hoses and power tools that they will need to build axles for large mining trucks.
The primary beneficiary is undoubtedly Caterpillar, a maker of industrial equipment with rising profits that has a new plant about 10 miles away in Winston-Salem.
Yet North Carolina is picking up much of the cost. It is paying about $1 million to help nearly 400 workers acquire these skills, and a community college has committed to develop a custom curriculum that Caterpillar has valued at about $4.3 million.
Caterpillar is one of dozens of companies, many with growing profits and large cash reserves, that have come to expect such largess from states in return for creating jobs. The labor market is finally starting to show some signs of improvement, with the government reporting on Friday that employers created 200,000 jobs in December.
There’s no guarantee the jobs will be permanent. North Carolina spent nearly $2 million to train workers for a Dell factory that closed after five years. Some of those workers are now training to work at Caterpillar.
Caterpillar is investing $426 million in the new factory in Winston-Salem, where unemployment is 10 percent. The state offered a $51 million package of incentives, including the training, to get the factory.
The state is also paying to train workers for a new Honda Aircraft factory in Greensboro, an expanding Siemens plant in Charlotte and an existing call center in Winston-Salem for US Airways, which relocated 200 jobs from Manila last year.
According to the state, North Carolina spent about $9.4 million to train workers as part of projects that created nearly 4,500 jobs in the 12 months through June 30. (The total cost per job rises sharply beyond the $2,000 in training because of voluminous tax breaks and other incentives.)
One of the first new Caterpillar workers is Dante Durant, a 42-year-old former Dell employee. He attended a Caterpillar job fair at Forsyth Technical Community College, took a series of tests administered by staff at Forsyth Tech and passed training classes taught primarily by Forsyth Tech instructors.
Caterpillar will create 392 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $40,000 in Winston-Salem, company executives predict.