The federal government is launching a $7 million grant program to help kick-start training to prepare laid-off autoworkers and other unemployed people for a second career, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. The grants will provide initial funds for community colleges and other organizations that help adults develop new career skills.

The programs can provide services such as tutoring or academic and career counseling, or they could remove financial constraints for adults returning to school by taking care of child care, transportation, or textbook costs.

"This is a real opportunity for us to help out and give adults a chance to get back on their feet," Duncan told the Associated Press.

For community colleges or other educational groups to secure a grant, Duncan said, they’ll have to show the ability to collaborate and establish programs that will last after the grant expires.

He said he picked Milwaukee Area Technical College to make his announcement because of the work the school has done with students.

Several cabinet secretaries and other Obama administration officials this week are visiting Midwestern communities that have been affected by layoffs in the automotive industry.

"This is not exclusive to autoworkers, but that’s a population we’re very, very concerned about," Duncan said. "There’s been a lot of ripple effects, people working building the parts, the supply chain, dealerships. There’s been lots of folks who have been hit very, very hard."

According to Manpower, the three toughest jobs for U.S. employers to fill this year are engineers, nurses, and skilled or manual trade laborers. But most of the top 10 industries are within reach for community college graduates, and Duncan said community colleges have been an undervalued resource.

"Community colleges are going to be absolutely vital," Duncan said. "They have a big, big role to play in helping individuals as well as the country."

The Education Department will take applications beginning June 5 and plans to award 28 grants by mid-September. Applications will be due Aug. 7, and the estimated range of the grant awards is $300,000 to $750,000 over a three-year period.

"We feel a sense of urgency," Duncan said. "We want to turn this around absolutely as quickly as we possibly can."

Links:

Press release about the new grant program

Education Department’s FY 2009 discretionary grant applications page


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