Workforce development luncheon held in Milford

Terry RogersBusiness, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

Denise Burke, Lauren Swain and Anastasia Jackson presented information on State of Delaware resources for business

All business owners are trying to help the employees they grow, and to attract new workers, in order to expand the business

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford’s recent Workforce Development Luncheon pointed to several programs available from the state to help them do just that.

“Most of the time when we deal with business owners and new businesses, they are really struggling with keeping employees or finding employees, so we try to figure out how to get them in contact with the Department of Labor and make sure that they’re able to get the capacity that they need to succeed,” said Anastasia Jackson, Kent County regional business manager and Main Street coordinator.

That includes spreading work about the state’s Workforce Training Grant.

 “So if you hear from us, we are going to be like, ‘Hey, do you know of any businesses who can use this help?’” Jackson said.

The Delaware Division of Small Business is a service-focused agency that is committed to helping businesses start and grow in Delaware, she said.

Their goal is to make Delaware the No. 1 state in the country for small business.

Jackson stated that the Delaware Tourism Office and the Office of Supplier Diversity is also part of the department.

“The Business Resource Connection is available,” said Lauren Swain, Sussex County regional business manager.

“If we are not able to help a business, we have many connections that may be able to provide the assistance they need,” she said. “Funding opportunities, we partner with the SBA, Delaware One Stop, the Small Business Development Center and SCORE Delaware. We also have a newsletter you can sign up for that is free.”

Jackson said the regional business managers serve as a liaison between small businesses and the state, helping assist with regulatory issues.

They also connect small businesses to resource organizations while providing access to capital funds and other funding options

The Office of Supplier Diversity helps minority owned businesses certify in order to qualify for preference in state contracts. This includes Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises, Veteran Owned Business Enterprises, Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business Enterprises, and Individuals with Disabilities Owned Business Enterprises.

Certification allows businesses to receive updates on opportunities related to their certification.

Jackson pointed to the state’s EDGE Grants, some of which were announced this week.

It opens up twice a year, in the spring and the fall, offering grants up to $100,000 for five entrepreneur businesses and five STEM businesses.

“Last round, we had over 100 applications with 16 finalists that presented before a panel of judges,” Jackson said.

Since 2019, the EDGE grants have awarded over $5 million.

“The business must be open less than seven years with 10 or fewer employees, majority located in the state of Delaware,” she said.

Businesses headquartered out of the state are unlikely to win, even if they are owned by Delaware residents, she said.

The EDGE Grant application is currently open and the deadline for applications is March 1, 2024 at 4 p.m.

“One of the most important things we do is working with new businesses because we try to make sure everyone understands their relationship with the Department of Finance, the Department of Labor, making sure they don’t owe anything.,” Jackson said.

“A lot of times we meet with a potential business owner, and they say “Oh, I have my LLC.” And I’m like “Why?” because you’re not there yet. The first step is a business plan and understanding how these agencies can help you grow your business.”

Swain noted  the Workforce Training Grant is designed for those who demonstrate a need for training.

This could be an organization with staff that must be certified each year or must have training to enable a business to improve or meet demands for their products or services.

Denise Burke of the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation described how the division can help businesses diversify their staff while providing employment assistance for the disabled.

“Our mission is to provide individualized services to employers and develop career pathways that qualify the job seeker in greater locations across the state,” Burke said. “We know that most businesses are really looking to diversify their workforce and we are ready to help you do that.”

Burke said they offer services for both those who have been disabled since birth and others who have developed a disability as they age or after an accident.

“For example, someone graduates from high school and decides to go into carpet laying for 20 years. All of a sudden, his knees are shot, and he cannot do that any longer, but he still has a lot of years left to work,” Burke said.

“He comes to DVR and we say, ‘Okay, let’s put you on a pathway for a career change.’”

That includes helping a worker get credentials, whether it is a degree or certifications, to be successful.

“We have an eager talent pool of people who want to get into employment.” she said. “I mean really truly qualified candidates who want to be employed.”

The division works with both the employer and the employee to be sure it is a good match.

Sometimes, the problem preventing a business from hiring a work is a minor issue, such as the employee needing to sit rather than stand for long periods of time or needing a specific schedule for meals or medication.

In those cases, the accommodation may easily be met and have no costs for the employer.

For more information about the many programs available from the state, call 302-739-4271 or email [email protected].


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