WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor is offering states $150 million to help offset employers’ cost for on-the-job training and apprenticeship for laid-off workers, the department’s latest investment in programs to get unemployed people back on payrolls.
Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said Monday states can apply to receive $500,000 to $6 million under the new Job-Driven National Emergency Grant for efforts to place workers in high-demand industries.
The money can be used to cover the cost of apprenticeships, including a portion of a worker’s wages, occupational training for industry credentials and job placement, among other costs.
The national unemployment rate has dropped slowly to 6.7 percent in March since peaking at 10.2 percent in October 2009. Nonetheless, “there are too many people who are struggling… especially the long-term unemployed,” Perez said during a conference call with reporters.
Perez said the new batch of grants are intended to target industries that pay “middle-class wages.” Perez, who visited Boeing’s 737 assembly plant in Renton last month, said Washington could apply for money to help train aerospace workers to replace those retiring from Boeing.
Monday’s grant follows several others announced in recent weeks. Earlier this month, for instance, the Labor Department made $450 million available to expand job-training partnership between employers and community colleges. That’s the same program under which Spokane Community College received $20 million in 2011 to lead a statewide effort with Boeing and other aerospace employers, the Machinists union, local Workforce Development Councils and others to train workers in aircraft assembly, composites, electronics and other jobs.
In February, the Labor Department announced it would set aside about $150 million in competitive Ready to Work Partnership grants to train long-term unemployed workers for middle- and high-skill jobs that are held by foreign workers with H-1B vists.
Bill Tarrow, spokesman for the Washington State Employment Security Department, said the state would consider seeking the grants. Any application would be coordinated with the state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. The application deadline is May 27; the grants will be distributed by end of June.