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Schools in California Join GM To Retrain Laid-Off Workers

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In an unusual display of cooperation, the public and private sectors in California are working together to develop a new role for the state's system of public education: the retraining of out-of-work automobile workers.

The project may be the most ambitious example to date of a concept--that educational systems can contribute to the retraining of adult workers--being discussed in a small but growing number of states.

The California education department's office of vocational education has joined with the General Motors Corporation, the United Automobile Workers, the state Employment Development Department, and the Chancellor's Office of Community Colleges to screen, retrain, and find new jobs for 8,400 General Motors workers who recently lost their jobs.

In announcing the agreement late last month, Wilson Riles, California's superintendent of public instruction, called the cooperative agreement "unprecedented."

The plan was initiated by General Motors, according to Michael J. Reilley, special assistant to the state director of vocational education. It calls for GM and the United Automobile Workers to provide $4 million for the project, while another $6 million will come from various state agencies, including federal vocational-education funds awarded to the state education department.

The former automobile workers, most of whom lost their jobs as a result of the closing of General Motors plants in Fremont and South Gate, will be screened at counseling centers. Once their skills are identified, potential employers will be found. Then the workers will be retrained. Officials hope those who participate in the program can be placed by the end of next year.

Mr. Reilley said his office will organize the retraining of the automobile workers. This will include finding local agencies to provide the retraining, locating teachers, and helping develop curricula, he said.

South Carolina has also undertaken an effort to equip its workforce with new skills.

William Dudly Jr., executive director of the state's board of technical and comprehensive education, is appointing a committee to study ways to retrain South Carolinians whose skills are becoming obsolete as business and industry incorporate more high technology into their operations.

The committee will also develop a statewide policy for job retraining.--tt

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