Grant will help PUC retrain displaced workers

2013-09-18T20:15:00Z 2013-09-18T23:26:47Z Grant will help PUC retrain displaced workersJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com
September 18, 2013 8:15 pm  • 

Purdue University Calumet landed a $2.74 million grant to retrain displaced workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the funding to PUC so it can expand job training and teach unemployed workers skills employers want. The federal money should help laid-off workers who have adversely been affected by imports, as well as veterans and other adults, said Cecelia Weatherwax, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.

The $2.7 million grant could be used to hire or train more instructors, use online learning to help students obtain job skills faster, develop new curricula and buy new equipment to ensure students train on what employers actually use in the workplace. The funding also could go to designing new programs based on the needs of local employers, or expanding existing programs so that workers can move up to higher-skill and higher-paying jobs.

PUC's Mechatronics Engineering Technology program got the grant so it can train more technicians and industrial machinery mechanics. Local employers had expressed a need to fill such positions, according to a Department of Labor news release.

Morrison Container Handling Solutions in Glenwood helped PUC launch that program, to ensure it had enough trained workers, said Wes Lukoshus, assistant vice chancellor for advancement.

Graduates have been prepared for careers in the packaging technology industry, which has been flourishing, Lukoshus said. Huhtamäki Inc., for instance, is investing $8.5 million in its Hammond facility, and Pratt Industries just announced a $260 million expansion in Valparaiso.

PUC helps such companies find well-trained employees, especially since about 70 percent of the university's graduates remain in the greater Northwest Indiana area, Lukoshus said.

"We have a significant impact on the economic development of our region," he said.

The funding PUC got was part of $474.5 million the federal government awarded Wednesday to colleges across the country in order to expand job training programs and strengthen partnerships with local employers. The Department of Labor has been pursuing a $2 billion multiyear initiative to retain unemployed workers, especially those impacted by foreign trade.

It is expected the funding will give up to 300 people the opportunity to attain one or more industry certifications.

“Putting our citizens to work is my foremost priority," Visclosky said. "It is incumbent upon us to invest in a well-trained workforce to protect the jobs of today and create the jobs of tomorrow."

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