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JOBS PROGRAM SET FOR BASE WORKERS.

Byline: Eric Leach Staff Writer

VENTURA - Ventura County officials have launched a new program they hope will help some of the 5,000 workers who might lose jobs that depend on the Naval Base Ventura County, which is transferring some 2,200 positions to the High Desert.

The Workforce Investment Board of Ventura County, which receives about $7 million a year in federal money to help create employment opportunities, is developing a plan to help the displaced workers transition into new jobs in high growth areas, including health care, biotechnology and construction.

``The WIB will begin working in partnership with the BRAC Ventura County Task Force to save jobs at Naval Base Ventura County and to prepare for job loss as the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission realigns employment at the base,'' WIB Executive Director Elaine Crandall said. ``A plan is already taking shape to develop career pathway programs that will ease personnel into new jobs.''

On Aug. 25, the federal BRAC voted to shift more than 2,000 Naval Base Ventura County jobs to the China Lake area of Kern County. As a result, Ventura County officials say they stand to lose about 5,000 military and related civilian jobs, many of them well-paying positions for highly skilled workers.

The BRAC panel is sending its recommendations to President George W. Bush, who has until Sept. 23 to accept the package or send it back one time for revisions before forwarding it to Congress. The House and Senate must then either approve or reject the entire plan without amendments.

Members of the BRAC 2005 Ventura County Task Force have said it appears the Naval Base Ventura County jobs will be lost over a period of four years or more, but they remain hopeful that the number will be reduced over time.

But because so many of the jobs are for highly trained people, they have called the potential loss a ``brain drain.''

After the federal commission made its decision Bill Simmons, manager of the Local BRAC task force called it ``a huge disappointment,'' but expressed optimism things could get better over time.

``A lot can happen in four to six years,'' he said. ``I think we'll see a lot of people moving around.''

Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast, has said that those workers who don't want to move to the China Lake area could probably find alternative work in the Ventura County area.

The Workforce Investment Board has already distributed a request for proposals seeking qualified organizations to not only conduct an Economic Impact Study of Naval Base Ventura County, but to implement the WIB's proposed action plan to minimize potential negative effects.

``We want to develop a long-range plan and partnerships so the business organizations and community organizations are ready as the effects of the BRAC decision take place,'' Crandall said. ``We want to keep as many of the talented people as possible in Ventura County.''

The proposed plan includes a health care academy that provides military personnel with paid and unpaid internships at local medical centers, the BioTech Career Pathways Project that trains military and civilian personnel for entry-level occupations in the biotechnology sector, and a pre-apprenticeship construction program to provide training necessary to qualify for pre-apprenticeship skilled construction jobs.

Planning includes a Troop-to-Teach academy that transitions military personnel into the education work force and an augmentation of Rapid Response services, which identifies resources and services for businesses and their employees affected by downsizing due to company restructuring, closure or relocation.

The WIB oversees work force development in the county by integrating employment, training, education and business services for job seekers, workers and employers.

Its annual budget of more than $7 million helps create and fund programs that help youth and adults train for available jobs and help employers create new jobs and upward mobility for workers.

Even before the BRAC commission's decision, the Workforce Investment Board had been focusing on the potential of new jobs in Ventura County's growing biotechnology industry, which includes companies like Amgen and Baxter International.

The WIB recently launched a two-year, $363,000 BioTech Career Pathways Project to address skill shortages created by the industry's fast-paced growth.

``With companies like Amgen and Baxter taking root in Ventura County, the skill shortage in the biotechnology sector must be addressed if we as a county are going to raise our employment rates,'' said Lynn Jacobs, chair of the Workforce Investment Board of Ventura County.

``This program will prepare dislocated workers for entry-level biotechnology careers, filling a shortage in personnel and lowering unemployment rates.''

The flexible and industry-led program will be developed with a combination of accelerated contract education courses and for-credit courses specifically developed and tailored for entry-level biotechnology careers, such as preparation technicians, cleaning technicians, biotechnology lab assistants and manufacturing associates.

Internship opportunities will be developed in connection with Ventura College, and job search assistance will be offered through a collaborative effort between Business and Employment Services and the Ventura County Community College District.

Previous program graduates have obtained positions with such companies as Amgen, Baxter, Bio-Source and DAKO.

Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602

eric.leach(at)dailynews.com

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact the Ventura County Workforce Investment Board at (805) 652-7684 or visit www.wib.ventura.org. People interested in participating in the Biotech Career Pathways Project may call (805) 648-9636.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 4, 2005
Words:900
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