HRIC Grants Aid RI Company Advancement

Fielding Manufacturing President Steven Fielding always knew that the secret to success and longevity in business was a strong workforce.

In order to get his employees strong, knowledgeable and up-to-speed technologically, he needed to have them properly trained, but while he had human resources, financial resources were another matter.

Steve Fielding found and took advantage of the incentives that the Human Resource Investment Council (HRIC) offers to state industry to address their workforce development issues. Since he realized that he was already paying into the Job Development Fund, as are most R.I. employers, he found a way to get some of that money back and use it to educate and increase the skill level of all his employees.

Since 1993, Fielding has received three Competitiveness Improvement Grants The early Competitiveness Improvement Grants allowed Fielding Manufacturing employees to be trained in such critical competencies as English as a Second Language (ESL), Team Building, Blueprint Reading and Statistical Process Control.

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As the organization has grown more sophisticated through the planning process, the Competitiveness Improvement grants have enabled Fielding Manufacturing to focus more on systemic change and building of their infrastructure. This in turn has led to the creation of the Fielding Continuous Improvement Council, a cross-functional committee that empowers team members at all levels to initiate and implement real change through Process Action Teams.

Brian Fielding, Training Director at Fielding said, “Without the Competitiveness Improvement Grant driving us to think about such issues, it is unlikely that this company could have sustained the effort or momentum needed to experiment with such a broad-based change initiative.”

Realizing the leverage these training grants gave to the company, Brian pursued a smaller Project Upgrade Training Grant to train three engineers in Pro-Engineer software. This small sister of the “Comp. Grant” is also available to all of Rhode Island’s small to medium sized businesses but the maximum qualifying amount is $5,000 per company per fiscal year. The approval process takes days after completing and submitting a three-page application.

Now in its third year, the Continuous Improvement Council is recognized as a powerful change agent within the company. In addition, Fielding Manufacturing received ISO Certification in September 1998, after extensive training that was supported with dollars allocated through the HRIC grant process. Steve Fielding said, “I’m a believer in what these grants can do to help any organization transform itself from a local manufacturer to a global competitor.”

Any for-profit company is eligible to receive training grants from the Human Resources Investment Council for up to $25,000, and consortia of three or more companies can receive up to $50,000. The Competitiveness Improvement program started in 1993 and grants are awarded annually. HRIC is currently in the midst of Round IX. Training categories include: implementing total quality management, developing high performance work organizations, preparing for ISO 9000 certification, technology applications and marketing. To date, HRIC has awarded over $9 million and helped over 450 RI companies.

Grant writing classes for the Competitiveness Improvement grants are offered every January through March prior to the spring due date for new round proposals. Applications for the smaller $5000 Project Upgrade grants are available throughout the year, and availability is on a first come, first serve basis. For more information on applying for HRIC grants, call 222-6700.

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