June 26--HELENA -- Montana received a $5.125 million federal grant to help with job-training programs for long-term unemployed residents, two U.S. government agencies said Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced on a conference call that the federal government was awarding a total of $155 million in competitive grants to 32 states, Puerto Rico and the Cherokee Nation. Thirty-eight states and other entities applied for the grants.
Money for the grant comes from the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Idaho was the only other state neighboring Montana to receive a grant, getting $3.475 million.
Gov. Steve Bullock was pleased the state received the grant
"With more than 11,000 new jobs created in Montana since the beginning of the year, it is clear that our economy is on the move," Bullock said. "However many Montanans still are struggling to earn the skills to compete in our changing economy."
The grant, Bullock said, "will allow us to address the needs of these Montanans, while equipping them with the skills and experience that will allow them to secure a job that allows them to provide for themselves and their families."
The new grant, which will be of job training and apprenticeships and retraining of long-term unemployed Montanans, the administration said. It will provide long-term unemployed Montanans with the opportunity to earn money while learning valuable skills that will assist them in finding permanent employment, the Bullock administration said.
For the purpose of the grant, Montana defined "long-term unemployed" as those individuals who have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks in aggregate since the recession of December 2007 to June 2009.
The Bullock administration said the grant will build upon relationships established as part of a $25 million grant the state secured from the U.S. Department of Labor in September 2013. Money from that grant brought together 13 Montana colleges and more than 80 employers from across the state to develop curricula that aligns the skills being taught at those colleges with the skills that are in most demand in the workplace.
In addition, the new grant will streamline the process for Montanans to sign up for workforce programs and eliminate duplication of data collection. The administration said this will be done by creating an "integrated workforce registration system" or IWR, which will serve as the virtual front door for those seeking workforce programs or unemployment insurance.
During the conference call, Perez said that although there have been 51 months of job growth in the United States, long-term unemployment remains "stubbornly high." Others remain in low-wage jobs with little room for advancement, he said.
Perez said providing workers with skills they need "will help them punch their ticket to the middle class," while assisting employers in growing their businesses.
Pritzker said worker skills development has been an area that she's worked on for years.
"I'm proud we have made it a priority at the Department of Commerce for the first time," she said.
(c)2014 The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.)
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Original headline: State lands $5M job-training federal grant
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