ANAHEIM — In another sign of economic hard times, hundreds of people stood in line overnight in pouring rain to enroll Wednesday in medical career training courses at a vocational training program.
When the North Orange County Regional Occupational Program opened its office in Anaheim at 7:30 a.m., there were 700 people in a line that snaked around the block, said Patricia Hansmeyer, spokeswoman for the state-funded program. About 1,080 spots in vocational classes were filled by noon.
"We had to turn away several hundred people," Hansmeyer said. "This is the worst we've ever seen."
Rita Mock, 35, was the 29th person in line at 3 a.m. The Yorba Linda resident was lucky enough to get a spot in a nursing class. She works in a construction office but hopes to switch to the medical field because of the construction industry's troubles.
"I had heard you had to be here early," she said. "The line was snaking all the way around the building and the parking lot" by 7:30 a.m., she said.
The lines are a reflection of escalating unemployment in Orange County. In November, the county unemployment reached 97,000, or 7%, up from 6.6% the previous month.
Prospective students for the vocational classes began lining up at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. By 4:30 a.m., there were 50 people waiting. During the the day, Hansmeyer said, 1,400 to 1,500 showed up.
The program held open enrollment in its most popular courses--health-care and medical careers--on Wednesday. Enrollment for other training classes begins today at 7:30 a.m., and more crowds are expected.
Hansmeyer said the adult education training program in Anaheim will receive $16.8 million in funding from the state for the fiscal year ending June 30. It cannot offer more classes, she said, because of budget cutbacks amounting to 4.5% in the past year.
High school juniors and seniors are the first priority for enrollment. Adults living in the five school districts in north Orange County are next. If there are openings after that, outside residents can enroll.
Enrollment last spring was 2,770; it is expected to be similar this year.
The Anaheim office, which serves 15 north Orange County cities, is open today from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for enrollment. Classes offered are in agriculture, business and marketing, office work, construction, electronics technology such as computer repair, home economics, manufacturing technology, graphics, power, energy, transportation, cosmetology and other areas.
The office is at 2360 West La Palma Ave. The phone numbers is (714) 776-7292.
"We expect an even bigger crowd tomorrow," Hansmeyer said Wednesday.