Laid-off workers choose trade schools

Under Michigan’s No Worker Left Behind program, unemployed and underemployed workers are trying to learn new skills. But fewer than one in three is taking classes at a community college, reports the Detroit News. Instead of the crowded community colleges, most workers are going to for-profit trade schools that can expand quickly to meet demand.

“By the state not financing community colleges and allowing community colleges to expand to take on further work force courses and programs, it actually costs the state money because the capacity is absorbed by private schools at a much higher rate,” said James Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College, who is concerned about the lack of state funding.

No Worker Left Behind funds pays for up to $5,000 in education costs, which goes a lot farther at a community college. But many colleges don’t have space or money for new students.

“Could we take more No Worker Left Behind students? We try,” said Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association, which represents all 28 schools.

High-demand programs like health care and advanced manufacturing already are filled, with some nursing programs up to three-year waits, he said.

“It’s not just capacity for No Worker Left Behind students,” Hansen said. “There’s no capacity for anybody.”

Fifty-nine percent of unemployed and underemployed workers who finished the program are working, said Gov. Jennifer Granholm, declaring the program a national model. According to the Detroit News, 16,100 (53 percent) of those who completed schooling found work, while more than 14,600 dropped out and another 14,500 completed their training but are jobless.  Another 27,000 people who already had jobs received on-the-job training paid for by the state.