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Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 10:35am

State Doubles Worker Training

“Stagnant” is the word Georgia’s top labor official used Thursday to describe the state’s job market. The comment came as Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond released the latest unemployment figures.

The jobless rate stands at 10% – the same as a year ago. Thurmond says the key to Georgia’s economy is private sector hiring.

"We need to focus more attention on stimulating job growth in the private sector -- initiatives focused on helping small and medium sized business owners afford to be able to increase their payroll."

To stimulate hiring, the state will expand its "Georgia Works" job training program. Right now it’s open only to people who get unemployment benefits. Next week it will be offered to all nearly half a million unemployed Georgians. That more than doubles eligibility.

Thurmond says the “Georgia Works” program encourages businesses to hire workers because they are trained for free.

"It is the one strategy that I see that addresses the most critical problem facing our economy, and that is that employers are reluctant to hire new employees."

Since 2003, Thurmond says "Georgia Works" has saved Georgia businesses $17. Critics say the program is free labor for employers because trainees aren’t paid. "Georgia Works" is voluntary training.

Thurmond says other states are copying the program, including North Carolina which is launching its program in the next few weeks.

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