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Laid Off Aerospace Workers to Get Aid : Jobs: A war chest of $10 million is being assembled to retrain them. State grant funds will finance the program.

September 13, 1990|JOHN SCHWADA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A war chest of nearly $10 million in state grant funds is being assembled to retrain hundreds of workers hit by aerospace industry layoffs locally, a Los Angeles City Council panel was told Wednesday.

Councilman Robert Farrell, chairman of the Community and Economic Development Committee and a lawmaker who has been prodding the city to gird itself for a defense spending wind-down, called the grants a "very encouraging sign of our increased capacity to meet the needs of displaced aerospace workers."

The Los Angeles area grant money, apparently the first of its kind to target the aerospace layoff situation, would be used to retrain people for work at McDonnell Douglas' Long Beach assembly plant and at other unspecified companies.

The $10 million in retraining money--which may be supplemented by another $3-million grant to retool the skills of 1,000 defense industry workers for jobs at PacTel Cellular, the nation's second largest car phone company--comes from the state's unemployment insurance fund.

Two weeks ago the council adopted a preliminary plan to cope with aerospace industry layoffs, including a commitment to seek $28 million in U.S. Department of Labor grants for job retraining and a move to clear away a thicket of cumbersome rules that slow the city's ability to apply for federal funds to help retrain, counsel and possibly relocate displaced workers.

The move to build a regional safety net for aerospace workers comes as some labor analysts have predicted that up to 20,000 Southland defense industry employees will be laid off by the end of the year. About 60% of the state's huge aerospace industry work force is located in Los Angeles County.

The $10 million is in two grants, each for $5 million, from the state Employment Training Panel. Only 75% of one of the grant's, or $3.75 million, must be spent to help aerospace industry layoff victims.

The panel is a seven-member body created in 1983 to administer grant funds disbursed from a 0.1% annual allocation from the state's unemployment insurance fund. The so-called ETP grants are to be used to retrain workers who are about to be laid off, or who have been laid off, said Ada Carrillo, the panel's manager for planning and information.

The grants only pay retraining costs, not for any stipends or wages to trainee-workers, Carrillo said. The retraining agencies, which in many cases are companies who are tapping the jobless market for new employees, do not get reimbursed for their training costs unless they hire the workers for at least 90 days.

The first of the new Southland grants will go to the United Auto Workers-Labor Employment and Training Corp., a organization established to retrain displaced workers. Bob Nelson, a vice president at UAW-LETC, said the nonprofit affiliate of the auto workers union will begin classes at its South Gate facility Oct. 1 to retrain up to 1,200 laid off aerospace industry workers for jobs as structural mechanics and electronic assemblers at McDonnell Douglas.

McDonnell makes its MD-80 and MD-11 commercial jets at its Long Beach site.

The classes will be offered for 18 months. Individual classes will run for six or nine weeks, Nelson said.

The other grant is set aside exclusively for use in retraining Lockheed workers laid off at the company's Burbank plant and is being administered locally by the Verdugo Private Industry Council, a private nonprofit corporation serving Glendale and Burbank.

Details have not been worked out about which companies or community colleges would operate the retraining programs, said Madalyn Blake, the Verdugo PIC's executive director.

But Blake said the idea is to market the training program to production and some high-tech companies working between Burbank and Palmdale, a corridor where a majority of Lockheed employees live.

BOEING UPROAR: City and state officials said they were outraged by Boeing importing workers from Seattle for B-2 jobs in Palmdale. D2

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