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Pilot Program for Community Colleges : Bill to Revive Job Placement Centers Awaits Vote

Times Staff Writer

A measure awaiting passage in the Senate could breathe new life into Los Angeles Community College District job placement centers, which were forced to close because of summertime budget cuts.

The measure by Assemblyman Alister McAlister (D-Fremont) would establish a $3.5-million pilot program placing computerized job placement centers at 25 community colleges statewide.

Under the bill, the chancellor of the state community college system would select 25 representative campuses to participate in the three-year program. Supporters of the bill speculated that as many as three or four of the new job centers could be placed on Los Angeles college campuses.

Eight Centers Closed

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Support for the measure gained momentum in July, after the Los Angeles district decided to shut down eight placement centers--including those at Valley, Pierce and Mission colleges--to save $500,000 a year.

As that action was being taken, McAlister placed the job center proposal into a bill that already had passed the Assembly. It is expected to be acted on by the Senate today and returned to the Assembly for final action.

Because of declining enrollment, the Los Angeles system has lost about $33 million in state money during the last four years, according to district officials.

The financial squeeze was exacerbated earlier this year when Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed legislation that would loan the district $5 million.

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Deukmejian has not taken a position on the bill, but his education adviser, Bill Cunningham, said on Tuesday that he has questioned whether the bill duplicates services of the state Employment Development Department.

The measure is supported by the California Community College Placement Assn., a coalition of businesses.

Joe Richey, the Reseda-based employment manager for Pacific Bell in California and president of the group, criticized the Los Angeles college district for ending placement services.

“Placement centers are an absolute lifeblood for employers who would like access to the students and don’t want to leave the area” to recruit, Richey said in an interview on Tuesday.

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Without job placement centers, employers are left “to go around to every class on the campus” for recruiting, said Clarence E. Price, head of equal-opportunity programs for Hughes Aircraft Co. in El Segundo.

Price said the community college centers have helped find clerks, secretaries, technicians and machinists for Hughes and other employers.

The centers provided a central location for employers to recruit students. At some campuses, students would be screened for jobs by the school before the employer arrived for an interview.

12 Employees Reassigned

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However, the Los Angeles district, faced with budget deficits, was forced to reassign 12 employees from the centers to financial aid offices, according to Norman Schneider, a district spokesman.

“We just can’t afford to do everything,” Schneider said, explaining the district’s decision to close the centers.

Placement center employees were categorized as “non-essential” several years ago, Schneider said, meaning they could be laid off or transferred.

At some campuses, the district is trying to provide space for employers to post jobs, he said. At one, Pierce College, students have pitched in to pay for a student worker to continue to post job notices, he added.

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Schneider said that another campus, Harbor College, closed its center two years ago when the director retired.

The other closed centers are at West Los Angeles College, East Los Angeles College, Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Trade Tech and Southwest College.


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