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In Pulaski, labor secretary unveils grant program to aid nation’s unemployed (VIDEO)

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PULASKI — Standing in Fulton Companies’ manufacturing plant Wednesday, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez made the case for getting the nation’s long-term unemployed back to work, announcing $150 million in grants for training programs.

“We’re not a country that kicks people to the side of the road when they’ve fallen on hard times,” Mr. Perez said. “We invest in their skills, we provide them opportunities, and that’s what this grant program is doing.”

A collection of about 20 to 30 “Ready to Work” partnership grants, ranging from $3 million to $10 million, will be awarded to programs like on-the-job training, paid work experience, paid internships and registered apprenticeships. The grants are paid for by a user fee paid by employers to bring foreign workers into the United States under the H-1B non-immigrant visa program.

As part of a series of stops around the state, Mr. Perez toured the company’s plant and talked to workers. He said rising costs and supply chain issues overseas are resulting in more manufacturing activity stateside, including places like Fulton Companies, which produces industrial and commercial heating systems.

Bram Palm, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said finding the employee with the right skills can be time-consuming and expensive. However, developing its local workforce of about 300 has been critical for his company’s success.

“You don’t make stuff without the people making it,” Mr. Palm said. Fulton Companies employs about 1,000 people around the world.

The company has found success developing its workforce after it received federal funding from the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which opened up a collaboration with SUNY ESF and the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems.

That kind of collaboration will be a precondition of the new grant program, which requires three employers or a regional industry association to be actively engaged. Programs will have to recruit people who have been out of work for six months or longer, and help assess their skill levels.

Those kind of partnerships and investments could help connect the nation’s workers, whom Mr. Perez called “our most precious resource,” with jobs.

“We’re kind of like Match.com,” he said, drawing a few laughs. “That’s what we do at the Department of Labor. We match workers and employers, and part of that match often involves investments in training, or investments in subsidizing wages for a short period of time. I’m confident these investments will pay off, and that’s why we’re doing it.”

More information about the grants can be found at www.doleta.gov/readytowork. Organizations may apply for grant funds at www.grants.gov.

Video of Mr. Perez’s appearance can be seen at http://wdt.me/labor-secretary.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez talks “Ready to Work” grant program
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