Plan boosts local job-training funds

Clark State works with local businesses to find areas of job growth.

SPRINGFIELD — President Barack Obama on Monday proposed spending $8 billion on job training programs at community colleges during the next three years to prepare students for high-demand growth industries.

The Community College to Career Fund is part of the president’s budget for fiscal year 2013, which starts Oct. 1. The Department of Education would see a $1.7 billion spending boost to $69.8 billion, a 2.5 percent increase over last year.

An investment in workforce training and development will help students prepare for new jobs when their former jobs no longer exist, said Jane Cape, dean of business and applied technologies at Clark State Community College.

“I think we have a lot of individuals out there who, maybe the jobs they’ve had, that particular job’s gone away, and they need to be retrained for the jobs out there,” Cape said Tuesday.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, are scheduled to stop in the region next week on a bus tour spotlighting examples of businesses and community colleges working together to train workers.

“We’ve got to make these examples a model for the entire nation,” Obama said during Monday’s speech at Northern Virginia Community College. He mentioned that the tour would pass through Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and other states.

Scott Allen, a regional Labor Department spokesman, confirmed the visit to the Dayton area, Columbus and Cincinnati starting Wednesday. Details were still being finalized and it’s not yet clear where they’ll visit.

Clark State already works with industry and business partners to identify needs and high-employment opportunities. In recent years, the school has used the expertise of local employers to offer workforce training in geospacial technology, cyber security and high-performance computing.

“Sometimes our biggest challenge is making folks aware of various kinds of programs and career opportunities that are there, so I think lots of folks out there can benefit,” Cape said.

Looking to community colleges to fill that need makes sense, she said.

“We’re a little more nimble,” Cape said. “If we find out there’s a need in an area, we can get a program launched in a relatively short time frame to get that student training.”

Sinclair Community College President Steven Johnson called investments in education and job training “wise choices for the future of our national economy and for the lives of millions of working Americans. At Sinclair, we are already hard at work at the mission of transforming our workforce and developing talented workers for area employers.”

The White House said the Community College to Career Fund, co-administered by the Departments of Labor and Education, would train 2 million workers for “good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries” such as health care, transportation and advanced manufacturing.

A key component of the community college plan would institute “pay for performance” in job training, meaning there would be financial incentives to ensure that trainees find permanent jobs — particularly for programs that place into jobs those who face the greatest hurdles.

It also would promote training of entrepreneurs, provide grants for state and local government to recruit companies, and support paid internships for low-income community college students.

Even as the U.S. struggles to emerge from the economic downturn, there are high-tech industries with a shortage of workers.

And it’s expected that there will be two million job openings in manufacturing nationally through 2018, mostly due to baby boomer retirement, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

But these types of jobs frequently require the ability to operate complicated machinery, as well as some expertise in subjects such as math and statistics.

Obama said his budget would safeguard increases in major K-12 reform programs while funding new efforts to improve college access and affordability.

The proposal also would:

• Reform K-12 school funding by supporting high standards, encouraging innovation and rewarding success. It would consolidate 38 programs into 11 that emphasize competition and what works, while also eliminating 13 programs.

• Provide $260 million in funding for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs and $80 million to help reach Obama’s goal of recruiting 100,000 STEM teachers.

• Expand the Race to the Top concept to early childhood education, university funding and job training.

• Maintain the $5,635 maximum Pell Grant award, helping 9 million students afford college.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.