State gets grants to help unemployed

Money to pay for assessment, training for in-demand jobs

By Joseph Ditzler / The Bulletin / @josefditzler

Published Jul 4, 2014 at 12:01AM

Oregon received $7.65 million in two federal grants in late June to help unemployed workers brush up their job- hunting skills, get vocational training and connect with jobs in burgeoning sectors.

One grant, $3.15 million, will pay for one-on-one assessments of anyone receiving unemployment benefits to help him or her find either a job or further training. The recurring grant aims to help those without work find it in a tightening employment market, said Craig Spivey, spokesman for the Oregon Employment Department. The grant money actually pays for staff time to devote to the program, he said.

At the depths of the recession, the Employment Department worked simply to cope with staggering job losses by signing up people quickly and ensuring they received unemployment benefits. Little time was available to meet with jobless workers to assess their skills, sign them up for training or brush up their résumés, Spivey said.

“In the past, we did not do one-on-one assessments of people’s work search because of (a lack) of money, and, certainly, during the recession we had so many people,” he said. “This is going to allow us to do very intensive re-employment assessments for everyone on unemployment.”

Those eligible for the program will be notified by mail, he said. Basically, anyone receiving the 26 weeks of unemployment compensation available in Oregon is eligible. Those whose benefits have expired are not eligible, he said.

The second grant aims to steer eligible workers into training for in-demand jobs in growing sectors of the Oregon economy, manufacturing and health care particularly. The state picked up another $4.5 million through the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program to retrain 626 eligible people for hard-to-fill jobs. WorkSource Oregon will administer both grants.

Oregon plans to give priority under the National Emergency Grant to workers unemployed at least 27 weeks, according to a copy of the grant application provided by the governor’s office. The Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development applied for the grant, which focuses on retraining, whether on-the-job, through apprenticeships or in classrooms.

Manufacturing is one area where job growth is expected to outpace the number of workers available, according to the grant application. Health care is another. “Manufacturing is expected to add 24,900 jobs between 2010 and 2020, growing 15 percent, while health care and social assistance is expected to add 60,200 jobs, growing 31 percent,” according to the application.

Central Oregon wants to grow its manufacturing sector, said Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger. That may mean putting people through on-the-job training, something the National Emergency Grant will do by compensating employers who hire first, then train employees for the work at hand, according to the grant application.

“More (on-the-job) training money is going to get more jobs for people,” Unger said Wednesday. “The employer can do the first little bit of training and have the confidence to hire.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com