Walt Cook, The Union Democrat

A proposal making its way through Congress could cut funding for job training and, some worry, lead to the closure of local employment offices.

The bill - H.R. 1 - would cease funding for all Workforce Investment Act programs by July 1. The Workforce Investment Act was enacted in 1998 to train workers and link them up with potential employers.

Eliminating the act's funding would only hurt workers in today's

already difficult job market, said Rebecca Ames-Block, chairwoman of

the Mother Lode Workforce Investment Board, which oversees local

Workforce Investment Act programs, including Mother Lode Job Training.

"This would effectively cause our local employment and training

resource to shut its doors, eliminating access to all services for

businesses, job seekers and those who need help with re-training," she

said in a news release condemning the House proposal.

Supporters of the move point to it as just one step of many to deal

with a ballooning national debt that exceeds $14 trillion.

President Barack Obama has also proposed cuts to workforce training, though his cuts would be less drastic.

Mother Lode Job Training operates job assistance centers in Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Mariposa counties.

Both businesses seeking employees and the unemployed use the

various services provided by Mother Lode Job training, according to


One of those who uses the centers' services is George Michel, of

Sonora. Michel, who is in the midst of getting his contractor's

license, was at the Sonora location Tuesday. He didn't like the idea of

cuts to the program. He described the services provided at the job

center as "excellent."

The job centers "have played an instrumental role in helping

individuals and heads of households transition from a traumatic layoff"

or get through "the drudgery of a highly competitive job market" by

helping them hone their interviewing and resume-writing skills,

Ames-Block said.

The Workforce Investment Act funds on the chopping block are the

primary source of money for the centers, according to Ames-Block.

In order to keep funding in place, Ames-Block is urging local

officials and labor representatives to participate in a writing

campaign to Congress.

"We have strength in our persistence, diligence and passion to live in this beautiful area," she said.

Contact Walt Cook at wcook@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4530.