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Grant to Aid Partnership to Improve Worker Skills : Program: Three colleges and nine firms will create three centers to provide training to employees with the help of $3.4 million in federal job literacy funds.


IRVINE — Three community colleges will join with nine businesses in Orange County to create three centers for work-force training and development, with the help of a $3.4-million federal grant, college officials announced Wednesday.

Coast Community College District, Irvine Valley College, Rancho Santiago College and nine companies will sponsor the centers, which are designed to give undereducated workers and those with limited English skills the necessary training to become better workers so they and their employers can be more competitive.

The "workplace literacy" grant is the only one awarded in California, and is the fourth largest in the nation. It is part of $18 million in federal job literacy grants awarded this year.

Project organizers intend to demonstrate to businesses "the return on investment for providing basic skills training to their work force," said Ed Langley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Newport Corp.

Newport Corp., a maker of precision equipment related to lasers and optics, currently has a training site--the Job Link Center--at its Irvine facility that will be the pilot site for the three-year program. By 1996, the project expects to have additional centers at sites in Santa Ana and at the Irvine Spectrum, said Ann Garten, a spokeswoman for Coast Community College District.

Teachers will use tape players, computers and multimedia displays to help improve workers' English vocabulary, reading comprehension and math skills, Garten said. The training will be free to the employees, who will be encouraged to participate in mentoring and reading clubs.

Employees will be taught skills geared to their jobs during and after work hours, officials said.

Other participating companies include: CDI-3M Health Care; Deft Inc.; Mallinckrodt Medical TPI Inc.; Printronix; Rosemount Analytical Inc.; Steelcase Inc.; 3M Dental Products, and 3M Surgical.

Organizers hope to spread the project to 50 businesses by the second year and 100 businesses by the third year.

Federal funding for the first year of the project will total $894,034, Garten said, and businesses and colleges will provide $402,315.

Money from the federal government for the second year will total $1.2 million, and $1.3 million during the third year, Garten said. Colleges will provide $630,948 and $637,148, respectively.

College officials said the diverse population of Orange County's work force and the county's changing demographics made it an ideal location for the literacy grant.

"Over 30% of the employees of the partner companies have basic skills that are insufficient for their jobs," Garten said. The training aims to improve workers' technical skills and enable them to work better in teams.

"The idea is to give (workers) the ability to perform their current jobs better," he said, "and move up."

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