The $2 million funding for coal workers comes from a U.S. Department of Labor grant meant to aid dislocated workers. Eligible workers can put the money towards training programs in other fields.
Vermona Peterson is the manager at the Gillette and Newcastle Workforce Center, an area of the state where individuals have been especially hurt by the energy decline. Peterson said thanks to the grant, laid off workers can be given up to $6,500 to pay for a variety of one-year certificates, a 2-year associates degree, or the last two years of a bachelors, so long as the program is on the eligible training provider list.
“When we work with individuals, we work with them in high-growth, high-demand occupations that they’re interested in,” said Peterson. “We don’t say you have three programs to choose from. It’s customer choice as long as it’s high-growth, high-demand.”
Some people Peterson has worked with have already gotten jobs since being laid off from the coal industry, but she said often times they don’t make a living wage.
Only those who worked directly for coal companies, or indirectly in manufacturing and coal-related transportation businesses in Campbell, Converse, Crook, Johnson, Niobrara, Sheridan and Weston counties are eligible. A full list of workforce centers can be found here.