01/26/04 — Wayne County wants job training grants

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Wayne County wants job training grants

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on January 26, 2004 2:01 PM

Wayne County officials are hoping for a share of $500 million in funding for job training and post-secondary education that was announced by President Bush.

During his State of the Union Address last week, President Bush announced his "Jobs for the 21st Century" program, a plan to retrain workers through the nation's community colleges for new types of jobs.

Joanna Thompson, president of the Economic Development Commission, thought she heard some ideas that could pay off for Wayne County.

"It's a chicken-and-the-egg thing," she said Friday. Industrialists want to locate in areas with workers already highly skilled in manufacturing, she said. But people have little incentive to get such training without the promise of jobs waiting for them.

The possibility of federal funding could generate some interest in job training through Wayne Community College, she said.

She believes that some industries already in the county would like to recruit the higher skilled workers. Plus, it would add in the recruitment of outside companies.

Dr. Ed Wilson, president of Wayne Community College, said he plans to pursue any grants that might be available because of the new program.

"We welcome any assistance in getting training to our residents to improve our workforce," Wilson said.

Bush said he plans to spend $250 million for partnerships between community colleges and employers in high-demand job sectors. The money most likely would be used to retrain workers who had been displaced from traditional industries and who might want to move into such fields as biotechnological manufacturing.

The $500 million program would also include $33 million for expanded Pell Grants for low-income students who completed rigorous course work in high school; $100 million to help striving readers; and $120 million to improve math education.

Wilson, who is on the board of directors for the American Association of Community Colleges, continued, "The announcement of these grants indicates recognition by the administration of the value of community colleges in our country's economic revival and validation of our mission.

"Now we hope that this support from the highest level will trickle through all the rest of government and result in real funding for community college workforce training and retraining."