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Grant to retrain auto workers announced

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 6, 2010 - A $3.2 million grant to retrain Missouri's dislocated auto and auto-related workers for jobs in the energy-efficiency and clean-energy sectors was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Democratic Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan of St. Louis joined U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a teleconference call to announce the grant to the UAW Labor Employment and Training Corp. The grant was authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Solis said the training includes four career paths: hybrid/electric auto technician, electric auto/truck battery technician, electric motors/devices technician and commercial energy technician. The program also targets veterans, ex-offenders, women and people with disabilities. Local partners include the UAW, GM and the St. Louis Auto Dealership Association.

The local grant is part of $100 million in energy partnership training grants made to communities nationwide by the Labor Department.

Solis said that Missouri will also share in a $4.9 million grant to the International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Industry. The program will train workers in the St. Louis region and other states in energy-efficient building construction, retrofitting and manufacturing.

"In my district we have thousands of laid-off skilled tradespeople who have tremendous talent,'' Clay said. "We have autoworkers, sheet metal workers and many other union craftsmen who are among the most skilled and productive workers in the world. They want to go back to work and this training will help them get there.''

Carnahan lauded the partnership between business, labor, education, state and local government to address a "big hole in the economy" after Chrysler closed its plant in Fenton.

"To build that back we're going to have to focus on new-generation auto technologies that are going to be a part of the future,'' he said.

Carnahan, who is co-chair and founder of the High Performance Building Caucus in the House, said he has focused on energy-efficient buildings because they are not only good for the environment but good for businesses and the long-term economic health of the region.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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