The U.S. Labor Department will provide up to $150 million in grants to states to train unemployed workers for high-demand industries.
The grants will range in size from $500,000 to $6 million, said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
The goal of the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program is to expand or create partnerships that are proven strategies for putting people back to work, Perez said. “I like to think of the Department of Labor as playing a Match.com-type role, matching employers with job seekers,” the Buffalo native said Monday.
States’ applications must be received by May 27 to be considered; the funds will begin to flow soon afterward.
“These are time-limited funds and they need to be distributed by the end of June,” Perez said.
The Buffalo Niagara region’s unemployment rate in March was 7.1 percent, compared to 7.3 for New York State and 6.8 percent nationally, according to the state Department of Labor.
Local Workforce Investment Boards will likely be partners in the grant application process, to help set funding priorities within different states, Perez said. He cited on-the-job training and registered apprenticeships as examples of programs that have proven successful in putting unemployed people into new jobs with good-paying wages.
The specific growth industries that will be targeted will vary from state to state, he said. But Perez said employers frequently mention to him a need for more skilled trades workers as older workers retire. “There’s a bright future in America for people who want to work with their hands,” he said.