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$1 Billion in Bush Job-Training Program Targeted at Youths

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President Bush has proposed a job-training program that would expand youth apprenticeships, high-school military training, and the Job Corps.

Mr. Bush unveiled the $3 billion initiative last month at a technical institute in Union, N.J.

Two-thirds of the new funding would be devoted to retraining for unemployed adults and those facing the loss of a job. The remaining $1 billion would be divided among four programs for disadvantaged youths:

  • The National Youth Apprenticeship Program, which would expand nationwide a school-to-work demonstration program that has sat idle in Congress since Mr. Bush proposed it in April. It would cost $100 million a year for five years and would serve one million youths.
  • The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, which would be expanded by 1,500 units, doubling the size of the program coordinated through public and private high schools.
  • The Youth Training Corps, which would expand the existing Job Corps program by 30,000 slots. The plan calls for $785 million over three years to open 20 new centers, mainly in surplus Defense Department facilities in rural areas. Armed forces employees affected by the downsizing of the military would be given hiring preference at the new centers. The program closely matches a youth conservation corps proposed by Sen. David Boren, D-Okla.
  • Treat and Train, a drug-rehabilitation program for youths who want to enter the proposed Youth Training Corps. It would be coordinated with the Weed and Seed urban-renewal program and run by the Justice Department.

The main feature of the program for unemployed adults would be $3,000 vouchers, which the Administration likened to Pell Grants, that could be redeemed for training at public or private community colleges and trade schools. The program also would make direct payments to jobless persons getting training if their unemployment benefits have run out.

Mr. Bush said the plan, dubbed the "New Century Workforce'' program, could be paid for by cutting funding for existing domestic programs, rather than raising taxes.

Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin hailed the proposal as "a major step forward in determining how best to prepare America's workers and students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.''

Election-Year Concerns

The proposal could help shield the President from criticism of his handling of the economy as he campaigns for re-election.

"He had to do something that looked like it was going to help people that might be laid off'' as a result of adoption of the free-trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, suggested an aide to the House panel that recently passed amendments to the Job Training Partnership Act.

Aides said the plan faces a tough fight in the Congress.

The House staff member noted that the plan was unveiled unexpectedly on a campaign stop much like the President's earlier "Job Training 2000'' initiative, which he said "has not been pushed much at all'' by the Administration.

Labor Department officials last week referred questions about the initiative to the White House. Administration officials said the initiative appeared to be a byproduct of discussions about the Job Training 2000 plan, also viewed as a creation of the White House.

The decision to expand the Job Corps program came just one year after the Administration opposed a similar expansion plan proposed in Congress.

Policy Reversal?

At that time, Roberts T. Jones, the head of the Labor Department's employment and training administration, said the plan to add five new centers a year for 10 years would have done more harm than good.

Mr. Jones said the expansion plan would have been more expensive than expected and could have "dilute[d] service quality and reduce[d] successful outcomes.''

Spokesmen for the Democratic Presidential nominee Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas noted that Mr. Bush's plan is similar to a job-training expansion that is among Mr. Clinton's top priorities.

Governor Clinton's plan calls on businesses with more than 50 employees to set aside an amount equal to up to 2 percent of their payrolls for worker training.

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