St. Louis area community colleges are joining forces with economic development and governmental agencies in an effort to prepare more than 2,000 displaced area workers for so-called 21st century jobs.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and representatives of the other institutions will formally unveil details of the project, "Graduate! St. Louis Consortium," at a news conference this morning at City Hall.
The 2,200 unemployed people enrolled in the programs will get training for jobs in health care, information technology and green technology.
Michael Holmes, executive director of the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, said the initiative represents a major step toward regional cooperation.
"We are connected, and we need to show more of that connectivity," Holmes aid. "We need to start thinking about St. Louis being a hub."
The area's jurisdictions have long competed with one another for jobs and economic development initiatives.
Funding for the three-year consortium will come from a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The program is expected to offset a portion of job losses in manufacturing and other sectors hard hit by the economy.
Consortium officials predict 1,500 of the program graduates will move into IT, health care and green jobs as a result of the training.
The courses will be offered at St. Louis Community College, St. Charles Community College, Jefferson College, East Central College and Southwestern Illinois College.
The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association along with the Workforce Investment Boards in St. Louis, Jefferson, Franklin, St. Charles, St. Clair and St. Louis counties coordinated efforts to land the federal grant.
Holmes said the St. Louis area is the third region in the country to form a job training consortium from targeted Labor Department grants.
The consortiums in Philadelphia and Connecticut are already up and running.
Participating community colleges will start hiring faculty and reconfiguring classrooms immediately.
Some of the schools could begin offering consortium-backed courses in the fall, Holmes said. The grant is expected to cover most educational costs associated with certification and degree programs.
Holmes said students will be asked to pay for a fraction of the training.
Today's announcement comes at a time when local unemployment, 9.7 percent, is the lowest it has been since April 2009.