The US government committed more than $US14 million to train energy industry workers, US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced this week.
Grant awards in Kentucky ($US3 million), West Virginia ($US3 million) and Pennsylvania will provide for simulators, distance learning and both traditional and mobile classroom environments.
The total funding package, in the form of six grants, will aid job training in Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming in various energy sectors including coal, oil, gas and nuclear.
The funding is part of the larger US Government $US27 million project “The President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative”, which seeks to aid students entering “high-growth” work sectors be better prepared for future job opportunities.
Chao said that the funding will help meet the demand these opportunities will create and said the initiative “will help workers acquire advanced skills so they can succeed in America’s vital energy sector”
The program, especially through its West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky grant awards, will directly affect the current state of the coal industry, one treading through a significant skills crisis due to a retiring mining workforce paired with a shortage of qualified programs to train incoming workers.
Mining engineering programs have dropped by more than half in the last 15 to 20 years, and only 86 students graduated last year to meet an industry demand of about 300, according to University of Missouri-Rolla mining department chair Larry Grayson.
US President George W Bush unveiled his plans for the High Growth Job Training Initiative in 2003, targeting outcomes including developing a “pipeline” of young workers, expanding labor pools and extend opportunities for post-secondary education and training. “It’s a collaborative effort to help team up people with the jobs that are needed, to make sure that the changes in our economy don’t leave people behind,” he said.