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State receives more than $6 million to train workers for high-demand industries

By Caitlin Cook, Staff writer

West Virginia was one of 32 states awarded money Wednesday to help train unemployed workers for high-demand industries.

The United States Department of Labor announced more than $154 million awarded to states Wednesday through its Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program. Puerto Rico and the Cherokee tribal nation also received grant funds.

The state received slightly more than $6 million to train workers. West Virginia’s job training program will focus on the construction and oil and gas industries.

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said despite economic progress being made, many people are still hurting, and the unemployment rate remains “stubbornly high.”

According to the Department of Labor, the national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May was 6.3 percent.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate climbed three-tenths of a percentage point to 6.3 percent in May, according to WorkForce West Virginia. May’s unemployment rate report showed increased unemployment rates in 45 of West Virginia’s counties.

“President Obama has made it a priority to expand opportunities for people to access in-demand skill training. That’s why, at the Department of Labor, we are investing in proven strategies that connect ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs. This year, we will release roughly $1 billion in targeted, job-driven training funds,” Perez said in a prepared press release. “Providing workers with access to the skills training they need to pursue in-demand jobs is critical to expanding opportunity and to helping businesses grow and thrive...Today’s awards will help states establish or expand programs that can change peoples’ lives.”

The program will be administered through the state’s American Job Centers and look to serve veterans and the long-term unemployed. It will build on current on-the-job training partnerships with employers in the construction and oil and gas industries.

“We know that job-driven training works,” Perez said. “These are win-win solutions for workers, employers and communities.”

The DOL couldn’t estimate how many people would be trained through the program as costs and duration of training vary.

West Virginia’s program also targets up to 5 percent of the grant award to provide funding to local workforce investment boards, which will partner with the state on the training, to develop plans to entice new employers to the region and to become on-the-job training partners.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told reporters the bottom line is a skilled workforce that meets employers’ needs is essential to America’s economic recovery and growth.

The department awarded an additional $175,000 to each grantee to help increase consumer access to training outcomes and information, create more effective electronic employment tools, encourage more employer engagement or enhance customer and employer satisfaction.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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