Kevin Anderson has been working with metal for years – casting it, fabricating it, plating it.
Now he’s trying to move ahead to the cutting edge of cutting metal, learning to program the computerized systems that operate machine tools from drills and lathes to routers and laser cutters.
Anderson, 52, is one of several hundred unemployed Spokane-area residents receiving training for new jobs through federal stimulus money. He’s well into the program for “computer numerical control” at Spokane Community College, but training programs in several other fields are set to begin in January and program officials are accepting applications.
“I think it’s a good deal,” Anderson said. “If a guy’s willing to work hard and take advantage of it, it can only benefit him.”
About $1 million in work force development funds – part of the $789 billion federal stimulus passed earlier this year – will be used to cover tuition for unemployed, low-income local workers in high-demand fields, according to program organizers. The Spokane Area Workforce Development Council and WorkSource are contracting with SCC on the program.
People who qualify will have their tuition, books and other expenses covered.
About 300 people will receive job training in certified programs, and another 150 will get basic-skills training, said Judy Cash, program supervisor for WorkSource. A few courses – such as Anderson’s – are already under way and closed; four new yearlong programs start in January, and a few more will start in the spring, Cash said.
“This is just for this school year,” she said. “It’s a one-time shot.”
Anderson worked in a variety of jobs over the years, often in some form of metal work. Most recently, he was fabricating sconces for a small Spokane lighting company before being laid off in May. He’s relying on unemployment benefits to help keep his very full household afloat. He and his wife live with five sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
Computerized design for metal work isn’t new, but Anderson has so far gotten experience only at the end of the process – essentially turning on the machine and putting in the materials. Now he’s learning to program computers to perform technical design work. It’s a skill that could be applied in a lot of fields, including automotive work and airplanes, he said.
“Right now, it’s a little slow. Everything is,” he said. “But when the economy picks up, there’s a demand for these kinds of workers.”