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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Island entity receives $11 million federal grant for workforce training

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

By The Star Staff

An entity in Puerto Rico is the recipient of one of 32 grants awarded across the United States and its territories for industry-led workforce training partnerships announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo as part of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

The Good Jobs Challenge is administered by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and will enable communities across the country to invest in innovative approaches to workforce development that will secure job opportunities for more than 50,000 Americans.

The 32 winning projects were selected from a competitive pool of 509 applicants. By partnering with labor unions, community colleges, industry, and other stakeholders, the projects will solve local talent needs and increase the supply of trained workers and help workers secure jobs in 15 key industries that are essential to U.S. supply chains, global competitiveness and regional development. The funding will advance a broad range of sectors — including agriculture and food production, energy and resilience, healthcare, manufacturing and information technology — jumpstarting the design, development, implementation and expansion of training programs that are tailored specifically to each community.

Economic Development Assistant Secretary Alejandra Castillo said Unidos US was the entity from Puerto Rico that won a grant, which was for $11 million to provide training.

She told the STAR that the training includes child care for participants, education and a job at the end of the training. Participants must complete training in 18 months.

“A trained workforce is essential to ensuring that the United States can compete and succeed in the 21st century,” Raimondo said. “Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan, the Commerce Department is able to make once-in-a-generation investments in industry-driven, and locally-led workforce systems that will create high-quality jobs and accelerate regional economic growth, especially for underserved communities.”

Further, the projects will expand access to the workforce and increase labor participation through a focus on job quality and equity. The projects will serve and support a broad range of individuals from underserved populations across the country in urban and rural areas, including members of Latino, African American, Indigenous, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, as well as women, the formerly incarcerated, and those recovering from substance abuse disorder. By providing access to high-quality jobs that include good pay, benefits and career mobility for Americans who need it most and simultaneously serving vital industries, the grants will support flourishing regional economies that in turn benefit the nation’s growth, competitiveness and resilience, the commerce secretary said. Many of the investments also advance the goals of the president to create equitable workforce development opportunities for infrastructure jobs.

“Workforce development is a critical pillar to supporting innovative and competitive economic development, and the Good Jobs Challenge is working hand-in-hand with diverse partners and local leaders to strengthen local economic recovery and resiliency,” Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said. “The Good Jobs Challenge prioritizes employer leadership and hiring commitments, which we know are critical to expanding career opportunities for more Americans to reach their full potential and secure good jobs, leading to a stronger regional and national economy.”

Castillo added that “[b]y integrating industry in every step of the talent development process, these awardees are focused on supporting underserved communities in diverse areas across the country, helping to remove systemic barriers for workers and connecting employers with the trained workforce they need to grow and sustain competitive local economies.”

The Good Jobs Challenge is part of a suite of American Rescue Plan programs developed by the EDA to equitably distribute its $3 billion allocation to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to accelerate economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build more resilient, shockproof local economies. The EDA is currently evaluating all applications and will announce grantees for the full suite of programs by Sept. 30.

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