Pa. community colleges get $20 million to retrain displaced workers

A federally funded program to provide low-cost job retraining at all of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges is up and running, after a year of preparation.

Workers who have lost jobs due to companies moving overseas will be eligible for retraining in three industries expected to grow in the state — manufacturing, energy, and health-care information technology.

Some classes have already started.

The best job placement rate has been among people training to work in the oil and gas industry as roustabouts, says Nick Neupauer, president of Butler County Community College.

“Pardon the lay definition, but for the dirty work that’s done at the drilling sites,” he said. “These are the guys who are manual laborers.”

Steve Curtis, president of the Community College of Philadelphia, says the $20 million grant pays for the start-up costs of creating the classes and hiring staff to work with students and prospective students within the program.

“Because jobs have been lost overseas etc., and current employees have been displaced, this is an effort to really stimulate and get a group of Pennsylvanians back to work now,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Commission of Community Colleges says there are about 15,000 Pennsylvanians eligible to be retrained through the program called Job Trak PA.

One estimate shows the initiative could train fewer than 4,000 people over the federal grant’s three-year lifetime.

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