BTC students get federal retraining money

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January 26, 2011
— Workers who are retraining after losing their jobs will benefit from a $1 million federal grant that was announced Tuesday.

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., announced that U.S. Department of Labor had released the money to Blackhawk Tech.

BTC had already budgeted for the money. In fact, about 175 students who will benefit either started this month or were already attending BTC, an official said.

Kohl made the money available in the 2010 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill, perhaps for the last time.

This is the second, and probably final, round of federal grants for the program, said Sharon Kennedy, Blackhawk Tech's vice president for learning.

With Democrats and Republicans talking about reining in the federal budget, earmarks like this one, in which lawmakers have special programs inserted into spending bills, might be outlawed.

"It's certainly become a controversial issue, but we've put this money to great use for our community, and we're thrilled that we received it," Kennedy said.

Kohl in a news release made a case for the targeted grant, noting that the loss of the Janesville General Motors plant left thousands of local people without work.

"As a result, demand for Blackhawk's highly regarded job training programs skyrocketed. This investment will help students direct their talents in new directions toward growth industries," Kohl said.

The money is for BTC's Career and Technical Education Training Program, which helps dislocated workers get training in high-demand career areas.

The money pays for students' tuition and books and for some instructional costs, Kennedy said.

The first grant, which arrived last January, paid for about 160 students who are still in school. They are progressing toward diplomas or associate degrees in welding, business, health sciences and information technology, Kennedy said.

Members of the first group were largely successful, Kennedy said.

The new group will study phlebotomy or get "green training," which prepares them for various sustainable practices in manufacturing or other kinds of workplaces. BTC's green training is provided in cooperation with Purdue University.

The students are referred by the Rock County Jobs Center. All are tested. Some get remedial basic education before entering a diploma or associate-degree program. Others enter their program directly.

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