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Don't write off employee training just because your training budget is somewhere between slim and none.

You might think affordable (or free) training is hard to come by, but that's not true, says Linda Newell, director of learning and development for Policy Studies Inc.

With a little work and some elbow grease, you can put together a quality training program for employees. Here are some ideas to make it happen:

1. Chunks of learning. Training doesn't have to be all-day events. Invest in development in small bites, such as "lunch and learn" sessions or "power hours."

2. Government resources. Several options are available. For example, you can earn government training grants if you're located in an enterprise zone (see www.doleta.gov/business/ezec). You can also find free or low-cost training via Web downloads or video on topics such as sexual harassment and ADA at www.dol.gov/compliance.

3. Community groups/nonprofits. Organizations like the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) can provide CPR courses, disaster training and more. Some organizations offer free or low-cost programs on conflict management. Also, take advantage of colleges that have graduate students who can do pilot training programs.

4. Neighbors or vendors. Barter for services with neighbors or vendors, including temp agencies.

5. Cheap technology. Check out Moodle, a free software package designed to help educators create quality online courses. Go to www.moodle.org.

6. "Home" videos. See if your local college film program will use your company as a pet project to create material such as orientation videos.

Further informal learning can include company newsletters, posters and "tip-of-the- week" programs. 

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