Grant may broaden job prospects for veterans

Regional workforce officials say they plan to use a $465,000 federal grant to train local military veterans for a rebounding manufacturing industry.

The Verdugo Workforce Investment Board plans to use about half the funds to train veterans to manufacture tools and equipment using computer numerical control, or CNC, technology. The technology, which allows for precise machining of engine parts and specialized tools, is used widely among regional manufacturers serving aviation and other industries.

Don Nakamoto, labor market specialist at the workforce board, said training for about four dozen veterans will be available through Glendale Community College. He said officials focused on manufacturing jobs because the sector is rebounding, and the region is still home to many industrial firms.

“They are experiencing some labor shortages in those occupations, and it seems to match up really well with some of the skills the veterans learned in the military,” Nakamoto said.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in March that unemployment among post-9/11 veterans is higher than it is among civilians or veterans from other eras. In 2010, 11.5% of post-9/11 veterans were unemployed, compared with a national average of 9.4%.

Kevin Callori, a spokesman for the state Employment Development Department, which awarded the federal grants, said unemployment rates remain stubbornly high, especially among veterans.

“There’s always been that need to help transition veterans returning into the civilian workforce, but it is probably a little greater now with the downturn in the market,” he said.

Nakamoto said a partner in the effort is Oxnard-based Haas Automation Inc., which makes CNC equipment and sells it to hundreds of manufacturers.

“One of the things that really intensified our interest is our understanding that a lot of [Haas] customers can’t find people to operate those machines, “ Nakamoto said. “If they could find more skilled labor, they probably would be hiring more people.”

Haas executives did not return calls seeking comment.

Nakamoto said half the grant would go to L.A.-based Managed Career Solutions Inc., which trains workers in creating electronic medical records. The field is growing, he added, with regional hospitals and health-care companies looking to add hundreds of jobs in the coming years.

The grant was part of a $6-million award of federal Workforce Investment Act funds administered through the state. Thirteen agencies received $420,000 or more for the effort. Most planned to focus on training in health care, environmentally sustainable construction, engineering and security jobs.

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