Obama budget seeks more funding for job retraining

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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration's proposed federal budget for the year starting Oct. 1 calls for a major rewrite of federal job training programs for long-term unemployed adults, and $8 billion for that task, details show.

But, in a tight budget environment for domestic programs and with House Republicans' hostility towards workers, there appear to be long odds against the success of his plan.

Still, the Obama proposal is noteworthy for what it says about administration job-training priorities at a time when unemployment is still above 7 percent.

The administration's proposal also would allot another $2 billion in block grants to states to fund long-term and innovative job training and retraining programs.

The ruling House Republicans have complained the government now funds some 37 separate job training programs, including everything from Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which aids workers who lose their jobs to subsidized foreign imports, to community college courses that let workers train for new jobs or upgrade their skills.

Their solution: Roll all 37 into a block grant, dump the money on governors to use as they wish - and drastically cut it. Obama wants to create an $8 billion program of "subsidized employment opportunities for (the low-income and long-term unemployed."

"Priority will be provided to employment opportunities likely to lead to unsubsi-dized employment in emerging or in-demand occupations in the local areas," his budget says.  "Funds may (also) be used to provide support services, such as transportation or child care, necessary to enable participation of individuals in employment opportunities."

The $2 billion in block grants would go for "on-the-job training, sector-based training, training supportive of an industry sector partnership, acquisition of an industry-recognized credential, connections to immediate work opportunities, career academies and/or adult basic education and integrated basic education and training models," Obama's budget blueprint adds.  If Congress kills Obama's proposal, the budget notes that by current law TAA gets cut from $1 billion this year to $656 million on Dec. 31.

In another job training proposal, the administration, for the second straight year, wants to eliminate a $1 million program that trains women for jobs in "non-traditional" fields for women, principally construction.  "The mission of expanding apprenticeship opportunities for women will continue to be advanced through the Office of Apprentice-ship's work to expand registered apprenticeships and ensure equal access to apprenticeship programs," the Obama budget blueprint says.

Photo: Obama wants to set aside $8 billion to train laid off workers for the green jobs of the future, including the building of an energy infrastructure not dependent upon fossil fuels.   Brian van der Brug/AP & Los Angeles Times