Council due to divvy up cash

CITY HALL — With local unemployment back on the rise, the City Council on Tuesday voted to disburse $1.3 million in economic stimulus money to 10 work training programs in an effort to retrain dislocated workers for a drastically changed market.

Glendale Community College, Studio Arts, Burbank Adult School and the Career Development Institute are among those expected to share the funding. The institutions will bear responsibility for training workers for emerging fields, as well as bringing industry veterans up to speed on technological shifts in the fields of entertainment and health care.

The proposal would use nearly half of the $1.3 million in workforce economic stimulus funds for employment and training services earmarked by the council last month.

Unemployment rates rose to 9.9% and 9.2% in Glendale and Burbank, respectively, according to figures released Friday by the California Economic Development Department. The latest figures represented a reversal of what had been minor drops in the local unemployment rate.

“Employers tend to be cautious after economic downturns,” said Don Nakamoto, labor market specialist for the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board, which coordinates work training for the Burbank-Glendale area. “Typically, it is not until six or seven months after the economy bottoms out that we begin to see employers hiring again.”

Under the proposal, Studio Arts would receive $115,192 to work with 16 out-of-work digital effects professionals in need of upgraded skills to re-enter the workforce.

The industry shift from hand-drawn to digital has resulted in thousands of veteran artists losing their jobs, said Eric Huelsman, owner of Studio Arts. The private trainer hosts seminars on Toon Boom, After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Flash to help bring animators up to speed on the ever-changing technology.

“They were so busy working that they didn’t have an opportunity to learn it,” Huelsman said, citing Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and DreamWorks Animation SKG as companies going through the transition.

To fill out their ranks, entertainment behemoths of late have turned to technologically savvy recent college graduates as well as foreign artists.

“A lot of the work that was lost in this country to people from other countries was because we didn’t have the skill set that they did,” he said. “But much of the work that was coming back from other countries was not equal in quality. Older people have the skill set needed, and the experience that kids don’t have.”

“The Princess and the Frog,” a two-dimensional feature hand-drawn on computers in a technique called “paperless animation,” is being heralded as the melding of old talent and new technology and is expected to hit theaters this year, he said.

Glendale Community College would receive $174,000 for a joint electric utility occupation program with Glendale Water & Power, and Burbank Adult School would get $83,208 for programs that train cable installers and electricians, according to the plan.

Health care, another field in need of a shot in the arm, will get a boost in the form of $118,500 to the Career Development Institute, $187,000 to Glendale Community College and $37,728 to Burbank Adult School.

With a near-perfect record of job placement, the Career Development Institute trains low-income individuals with language barriers as certified nursing assistants, said President Janis Newton. The funds will pay for 30 people to go through the nine-week program.

“What I tell students who have completed the program is, ‘I should never see you again,’” she said. “It’s the type of work where you’ll always have a job.”

Billed as the only mobile classroom in the state, graduates can expect to earn an average of $10 per hour whereas graduates of similar programs before demand increased could expect upward of $8.

“I don’t have any doubt that they’ll be placed and they’ll be working,” she said.

Glendale Community College would receive $87,000 for alcohol and drug counseling — one of the few occupations experiencing growth — and $100,000 for development programs, such as nurse-to-registered-nurse training.

One of the hallmarks of the stimulus proposal is the joint training venture with the city’s local hospitals as they seek new hires in a constantly evolving field, Nakamoto said.

The proposal would set aside $150,000 for on-the-job training for nurses at four local hospitals, and $90,302 for individual and customized preparation.

“The funding helps to really strengthen our [Career Technical Education] offering when we are looking at some pretty big cuts in the state budget,” said Joe Stark, assistant principal of Burbank Adult School.


 CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO covers Burbank City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at christopher.cadelago@ latimes.com.

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