Auto workers' skills are put to use on other jobs

California has 8,000 laid-off auto assembly plant workers - and a special new program to help them rejoin the work force.

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) union, General Motors (GM), and five state agencies recently announced a $10 million program to retrain laid-off auto workers with the help of public vocational and educational institutions and private career training schools. Besides retraining people, the program will attempt to match skills workers already have with industries that are hiring.

Most of the people involved worked for a GM assembly plant in Fremont in the San Francisco area and a Ford plant in South Gate near Los Angeles. Although the program is designed to provide retraining for all the laid-off auto workers, that probably will not be necessary. Some have already found new jobs, and if current attempts by Toyota and GM to work out joint use of the Fremont plant are successful, several hundred may be able to return to work there.

The new program is expected to start in November and last until the end of 1983. Six million dollars of the cost will be provided by the state and federal governments; $4 million will come from a GM-UAW job retraining fund under which the company contributes 5 cents for each hour its employees work.

California is the first state in which autoworkers are to benefit from the fund, which eventually is supposed to accumulate $40 million.

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