Thursday, September 2, 2004

Worker training seems to help

Official can't say new jobs better than lost ones

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - When Cleveland-based LTV Steel Corp. declared bankruptcy and idled its mills because of low-priced foreign imports, thousands of steelworkers became eligible for federal job training meant to help them land comparable jobs.

Other Ohioans who have lost their jobs because of trade also have used the $220 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which has grown from 972 participants in Ohio in 2001 to 1,835 in 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But while state officials say about 85 percent of Ohioans who use the program complete their training or find employment, they can't answer one question: Are these workers getting and keeping good-paying jobs?

"No, the pay was not the same. A lot of the workers had to take pay cuts, even though they did get retrained," said Kenny Poweski, a former LTV steelworker for 25 years who lost his job when the company shut in 2001.

Poweski, 49, who lives in the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted, is now working part-time for the United Steelworkers of America union while he continues to look for a permanent job.

"There's jobs out there, but the majority of them are only $9 or $10 an hour and the majority of them ... have no benefits. No benefits at all," said Poweski, who used to make about $13 an hour working as a steel roller operator inspector for LTV.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services measures the success of the training program by the number of people enrolled who have completed their training classes or found work. They don't keep track of who keeps those jobs or how the new jobs compare to the lost jobs.

According to data provided by the agency, the number of workers who have completed training or found employment increased from 80 percent in 2002 to 85 percent in 2004.

"Based on our graduation rates, we do believe that our program is viable in Ohio for dislocated workers to have an option to go to," said Melissa DeLisio, assistant director for the agency.

Many of these workers have been trained in the health care field to be medical assistants or licensed nurses. Others received training to become computer networking engineers, truck drivers, electricians or welders, said agency spokesman Jon Allen.

Congress revamped the program in 2002, increasing annual nationwide funding from $110 million to $220 million so states could meet the rising demand for assistance.

Ohio Democrats Marcy Kaptur, Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland and Stephanie Tubbs Jones are among 108 co-sponsors of a bill that would expand eligibility for the program and increase spending on the program to $440 million.

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