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Clayton to share in $1.6 million training grant

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Clayton, Fulton and Cobb counties have been tapped by the state to become future centers for bioscience and biotechnology.

On Friday, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that the newly dubbed "Western Innovation Crescent" will be among four new Work Ready Regions to share $1.6 million in workforce preparation funding.

The four regions, which include 28 counties, will each receive $400,000 in federal dollars to fund skills-training programs through the Georgia Work Ready program.

While Clayton, Fulton, and Cobb will receive funding for bioscience training and initiatives, South Georgia, South Central Georgia, and East Central Georgia, will receive funding for bioscience, advanced manufacturing, and energy initiatives, respectively.

Gov. Perdue said preparing the workforce in these regions will make the state more attractive to companies seeking to locate in the Southeast.

"By aligning our assets and working collaboratively to attract and grow jobs in our state's strategic industries, Georgia Work Ready Regions are making our state a more attractive destination for companies," Perdue said in a released statement. "By developing a pipeline of qualified workers, Georgia can ensure that companies will have one of their most important resources for continued growth and innovation."

Grant Wainscott, Clayton County's economic development director, said becoming a Work Ready Region will give Clayton citizens greater access to state-funded job training and skill-evaluation programs.

"The certified Work Ready program is such an asset for the state, and it is something that the county has been interested in since its inception," said Wainscott. "There are dozens of manufacturers in the area and they are always looking for any advantages they can find. Our employees have a better chance of landing those jobs, if they are certified in those particular fields."

Debra Lyons, director of the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, oversees the Georgia Work Ready initiative, which has been in operation since January 2007. She said through the program, job-seekers can take free training and assessment tests, working their way up through bronze, silver, gold, and platinum certifications. Businesses registered with Georgia Work Ready, in turn, can specifically hire employees who pass a certain levels of assessments.

"When companies are looking to locate to an area, one of the major factors they look at is their workforce," said Lyons. "The minute we start matching businesses to Work Ready employees, we are going to improve productivity, cut hiring loss, [and] basically improve their bottom line.

"It's a very powerful tool for people who are needing to transition from one job to the next," Lyons said. "This will help us continue to develop the growing bioscience field here, and bring in new industries."

Gail Webb, the Archway Partnership Project professional assigned to Clayton County, said having Work Ready in Clayton County will help local workers know where they stand.

"The biggest benefit will be to increase the skills level of the citizens," she said. "If you don't know your skills level, you can't improve. Having that training provided to them is going to be a real help. What's great about it is that these assessments are free."

Interested individuals can receive job-skills evaluations at the Atlanta Regional Commission Career Resource Center, located at 3000 Corporate Center Drive, Suite 350, in Morrow. For more information, call (770) 960-2172.