The White House has announced an $18-million grant to help retrain nearly 5,000 Southern California aerospace workers who have lost their jobs because of cutbacks in defense spending.
The grant, the first to be awarded under a Labor Department program, will provide vouchers to the aerospace workers in six counties in the Los Angeles region. The vouchers can be used for a range of services, including classroom study, on-the-job training, child care, transportation assistance, language courses and counseling.
The grant was announced Wednesday by Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich and several California members of Congress whose districts have been hit hard by the post-Cold War restructuring of the defense industry.
“We’ve had a lot of problems,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), “but we’ve not had a lot of help that we could point to and say, ‘This is going to make a difference.’ This (program) is real help.”
The grant will be administered by the South Bay Private Industry Council in Inglewood, and the money will be divided among 14 service regions in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Reich said the program is aimed at training people for occupations that have shortages of workers, including health care, computers, telecommunications and graphic design. “These jobs are already there,” he said.
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills), whose district is heavily dependent on aerospace dollars, praised the program as a blending of private and governmental initiative.
“This is exactly what we need: government as catalyst, helping the private sector absorb (these) workers,” she said. “This is what we must do to keep our industrial base and intellectual base intact and be prepared for the future.”
The Clinton Administration--intent on appearing sympathetic to the plight of the most populous state--is no doubt hoping to reap political benefits from the grant, the largest that Reich will award under the program. But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the state is only getting what it deserves. “We’re not abandoning those who won the Cold War,” she said.