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Q & A / SUSAN HENNESSY

Consultant, UCI Extension

August 23, 1993|ANNE MICHAUD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the cover of its fall catalogue, UC Irvine's adult education school displays a Monopoly-style game called Defense Conversion Plan. The cover is symbolic of the school's effort to reach people losing defense jobs--in industry and the military. Susan Hennessy, a former grant writer for Anaheim-based Interstate Electronics, has helped the university apply for some of the $20 billion the federal government has set aside to ease the economy away from its reliance on defense employment. Hennessy spoke with Times staff writer Anne Michaud.

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What does UCI do now when approached by a displaced defense worker?

We direct them to our current programs. There are three certificate programs that have to do with manufacturing techniques and technologies--information technology; microcomputer and digital systems engineering; and competitive manufacturing operations. There are individual technical courses you can take, and we offer programs in entrepreneurship.

The courses can be expensive--an entire certificate program can run into thousands of dollars--so we've been talking to the county of Orange about scholarship money. There may be money available through the federal Job Training Partnership Act. We'll know whether that money is available within two weeks.

What would the new center offer on top of that?

Lots. What the center would do is go way beyond offering training programs and get involved in looking at the whole picture. It would start by looking at the needs at the manufacturing companies. What are the competencies they need to provide the services or the products to their market niche?

Then it would help people assess the skills that they've had for years in the defense industry and how those skills match the competencies needed by other industries.

In addition to that, we're going to continually evaluate and analyze the results of what we do. The center would track the companies' results and people's results and feed that information back into government, industry and education.

Do you think you could actually learn enough to head off another wholesale layoff like this?

To tell you the truth, I'd like to think that we could. Probably a more realistic view is that we can take steps in that direction. Up until now, no steps have really been taken that are preventive in nature.

If we could look back in five or 10 years and see that we did head off a major layoff because of our efforts--that would be great. Seeing those kinds of results probably would take that long, realistically.

Why are you calling it the Competitive Manufacturing Education Center?

The government agency that is handling grant money said they want to have an effect on the manufacturing ability of the United States. So, what we did is designed the center and named it to reflect that goal on the part of the federal government.

Which federal funds are you seeking?

The TRP fund--Technology Reinvestment Project. ARPA created it to be the "doing" arm of defense conversion, to actually get the work done.

What is ARPA?

Advanced Research Programs Agency. It used to be called DARPA--Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency. They just recently changed the name.

The agency has been primarily a research and study arm of the government. Whenever a government agency throws up its hands and says, "We don't know how to do this," it would approach (the Defense Advance Research Programs Agency). And the agency would go out to industry and ask for ideas. It's been a think tank.

When will you know about the grant?

They have to allocate the money by Oct. 1. So, I would say by Oct. 15 we ought to know something.

But you're planning to go forward with this center even if you don't receive the grant, isn't that true?

Without the grant money, we will be limited in what we can do. We will continue to offer the programs that we have, and there is a possibility that we could do some portion of what the center could do, within the current resources of UCI Extension. We would be limited. However, we are looking into that.

How much money do you need?

It is estimated that it will take in excess of $3 million to run the center for three years. The plan of the Extension is to fund that amount using federal funds, matching state funds and student fees. There would be a center (in Irvine) and a satellite office in Anaheim.

The grant you applied for would last for how long and how many people would it serve?

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