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State set to receive millions in work force grants

By Whitney Burdette, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 26--Workers who are having trouble finding jobs or accessing training may soon be in luck.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Wednesday nearly $155 million in grants awarded to 32 states, Puerto Rico and the Cherokee tribal nation through its Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program. Of that, West Virginia will receive $6.175 million. The state will also receive nearly $192,000 from the department's Re-Employment and Eligibility Assessment program.

Funds from both programs will help unemployed workers access job training.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez said although the U.S. economy has started to recover from the Great Recession, many people across the country are still jobless. Roughly one-third of unemployed workers have been without jobs for more than 27 weeks, and even those with jobs are faced with stagnant wages that don't keep up with inflation or cost of living increases.

To help with the problem, the department plans to invest nearly $1 billion in job training and re-employment programs this year in order to implement President Barack Obama's jobs agenda.

"He wants everybody to have an opportunity to punch their tickets to the middle class," Perez said of the president's agenda.

The department first announced it was taking grant applications for the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program in April. On Wednesday, Perez announced the $155 million in awards, which states will use to help grow apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs.

"This is $155 million to give workers the ability to learn and earn," Perez said.

Penny Pritzker, secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, said CEOs and business owners have reported finding the right workers to fill available positions is a top challenge. She hopes the grant program can change that.

"We have to have business at the table as we develop training mechanisms to define exactly what they're looking for when they search for employees," she said, later adding, "The bottom line is a skilled workforce that meets employer's needs is essential to America's economy, growth and global competitiveness."

The labor and commerce departments have partnered with the Department of Education to fund federal job training programs. As a result, $500 million has been made available for community and technical colleges to partner with individual companies and national industry associations to expand job training programs. Another $100 million has gone to apprenticeship grants in new areas like information technology, advanced manufacturing and health care and $150 million has been granted to support partnerships between intermediaries and employers to implement strategies to help the long-term unemployed get back to work.

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The grant program requires recipients to track and monitor their outcomes and report back to the Department of Labor.

The $192,000 grant will be used to conduct in-person assessments at WorkForce West Virginia offices. The assessments will include developing individual re-employment plans for each applicant; providing market information corresponding to the applicant's job skills, employment prospects and location; reviewing the applicant's eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits; and providing referrals to relevant re-employment or job training services.

All told, the Re-Employment and Eligibility Assessment program awarded more than $68 million to American Job Centers in 37 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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(c)2014 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)

Visit the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.) at www.dailymail.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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