Hundreds of Sacramento workers recently laid off from Campbell Soup and other major employers could benefit from a nearly $6 million state grant awarded this week to a local job-training program.
The Sacramento Employment and Training Agency will pump the money into career retraining at local community colleges, vocational schools and area firms for 832 laid-off workers, officials announced.
SETA will administer Sacramento County's share of a nine-county, $19 million award from a state fund for displaced workers. The Sacramento Works Lay-Off Assistance grant targets employees who lost jobs in mass layoffs.
"We're ready to spend the money," said SETA spokeswoman Terri Carpenter on Wednesday. "We want to ensure their success. We have a whole new flood of money that gives them opportunity and services. Our goal is to serve as many people as possible."
Employees are eligible if they worked at 16 Sacramento-area firms that include a long list of household names: Bank of America, Raley's, Comcast, Hostess and south Sacramento's soon-to-be-shuttered Campbell Soup plant.
Campbell Soup has already shed 290 full-time jobs and will lay off another 470 by July 1 as it prepares to close its doors for the last time, according to state employment documents.
The grant money will address a wide array of needs, Carpenter said, from career counseling and personal assessment to occupational training in the classroom. It will also include on-the-job training and support services, including child care.
The number of displaced workers locally and the long list of their former employers speak to the breadth of the cuts.
The bad news meant hard choices for hundreds across the region and threw another roadblock in front of a local economy still in recovery. Unemployment has gradually dropped over the last six months, but the region's jobless rate remains high at 9.8 percent.
Training programs are still being readied, but the task now is to find laid-off workers and steer them to the help they need. Layoffs cut across a wide swath of the Sacramento workplace from manufacturing to banking, education and government, grocery to high tech.
Many who lost their jobs may have scrambled to find new work on their own not knowing that resources are available.
"When we get notified (by employers), we try to get in the front door of these organizations," Carpenter said. "A lot of times, though, in the first couple of months, employees are going through the chaos of transition. We're trying to re-engage with those people."
With the potential of federal sequester-triggered cuts to unemployment payments and job assistance programs, the grant's timing is fortuitous, Carpenter said. "This means we can provide direct services. This infusion helps us without cutting back on services," he said.
The grant funding should bolster SETA's earlier efforts to help employees move into training and new work.
SETA counselors have been working with Campbell Soup employees since November, holding job search workshops and resource fairs. There, employees receive information on unemployment insurance and the local labor market.
In a statement, Campbell spokeswoman Carla Burigatto said Campbell is working with SETA and the state Employment Development Department to connect employees with job search and training services. Another job fair is slated for the plant later this month, Burigatto said.
In all, nine counties including Colusa, San Joaquin, Sutter and Yuba in the greater Sacramento region, received state funding.
For more information about the Sacramento Works Lay-Off Assistance Program, call the program's information line at (916) 263-4066 or visit a Sacramento Works One-Stop Career Center. Visit sacramentoworks.org for a list of career centers.
Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.