By ALEJANDRO CANO | Fontana Herald News
Sen. Kamala Harris toured the Industrial Technical Learning Center — “a national model” which is located in Fontana — on Aug. 31 after discussing with local economic leaders the positive impacts of workforce development and job creation to the region and nation.
During a roundtable discussion with employees, faculty, and students of InTech, in addition to local economic experts and leaders, Harris, a Democrat, highlighted the importance of investing in job training for the 21st century while at the same time criticizing President Donald Trump’s proposal of making cuts to the Department of Labor.
“I’m overwhelmed by the great work that is going on in the Inland Empire. This is truly a national model. I heard about it, read about it, and had to see it for myself so I can talk about it in Washington,” said Harris. “Their success is going to be inspirational for other places so that any man and woman would have the same opportunities.”
This marked one of the few times that a U.S. senator has paid a visit to Fontana. Harris previously had attended an event at Auto Club Speedway while serving as the attorney general in California.
InTech is a collaboration between California Steel Industries and Chaffey Community College and operates thanks in part to state and federal funding. Its mission is to train adults in industrial maintenance, industrial electrical, pre-engineering, AutoCAD, construction generalist, forklift training, industrial mechanical, robotics, and welding, among other occupations.
These are well-paid jobs, said Sandra Sisco, director of economic development at InTech, but centers like this could be heavily impacted by budget cuts, according to Harris.
“The idea that we are going to cut funding to train people just does not make any sense. It actually hurts workers and it hurts our economy,” she said.
The current administration wants to cut $2.5 billion from the Department of Labor, a 21 percent reduction from last year’s budget. Trump’s 2018 budget calls for significant reductions in funding for key workforce programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which was reauthorized by Congress in 2014, said the National Skills Coalition in May.
“The budget calls for cuts of approximately $1 billion from the three state formula grants under Title I of WIOA, cutting WIOA Adult from $816 million to $490 million, Dislocated Worker state grants from just over $1 billion to $615 million, and reducing youth grants from $873 million to $416 million. Overall, the formula grant cuts represent about a 40 percent reduction from current funding levels, which would have devastating impacts on states and local communities seeking to address the skill needs of businesses and jobseekers,” stated NSC.
After practicing her skills as a forklift driver in a simulator, Harris visited some classrooms where future technical workers are being trained. Harris congratulated the students and assured them that she will fight for the proper funding in Washington so that other people in the state and nation have the same opportunities.