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Power academy may expand

GCC program that trains future utility workers is in line for $180,000 boost.

July 26, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zibmert@latimes.com

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — An earmark in a federal appropriations bill expected to be signed by President Obama would expand a workforce retraining program at Glendale Community College, officials said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) secured a $180,000 provision that, if preserved through the legislative process, would let college officials expand the scope of its Verdugo Power Academy — a program through the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board, Glendale Water and Power and Glendale Community College that retrains unemployed adults for utility careers.

"The intent is to at least support the academy as appropriate, and also initiate training in water treatment and distribution," said Scott Rubke, chairman of the technology and aviation division at Glendale Community College.

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Schiff acknowledged the legislation has a few procedural hurdles, but said the funding could help create jobs.

"Job growth is critical to our country's economic recovery, and this partnership will help prepare residents to obtain a good-paying job in a field with a high demand for trained technicians," he said in a statement.

The grant could also be the seed money that would let Verdugo Power Academy open another section on water utilities, Rubke said.

The curriculum has been approved, and a class could be ready to go by next spring, he said.

The Verdugo Power Academy — which requires students to be physically fit — graduated its second class in June. To pass, students had to climb a 45-foot-tall electrical pole.

But the water treatment and distribution curriculum would be less physically taxing, Rubke said. In its place, and especially in a wastewater treatment division, instructors would emphasize chemistry and science.

While it was too early to gauge how big a water distribution or wastewater treatment course could be, Rubke said it would be filled with current employees who need to be certified in the newest trends and models.

"There's a constant level of retraining going on," he said.

Funding might also be stretched to finalize an engineering partnership with Cal State Northridge, Rubke said.

"If we can get some grant money to assist that, it's not a huge amount, but we need some seed money to get it started," he said. "The college is not getting any extra funding from the state of California, for sure."

That the funding can be secured for the Verdugo Power Academy indicates the program's reputation, Supt./President Dawn Lindsay said.

"[Schiff] has been a supporter of the power academy since its inception and continues to support curricular growth and expansion," she said in an e-mail. "Leaders coming together for the benefit of our students create a very powerful and reinforcing synergy."

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