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Monday, January 28, 2013 - 6:30am

Deal Wants Job Training Center For Vets

Governor Nathan Deal is asking state lawmakers to fund a new job training center for veterans.

The concept, in development for more than two years, is in Deal's 2014 state budget proposal.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly a third of services members under 24 returning from Iraq and Afghanistan face unemployment.

The proposed Military and Veterans Academic and Training Center would help Georgia veterans translate their military skills to the civilian economy.

For example, a service member trained in aircraft maintenance could receive help obtaining civilian mechanic's credentials, said Technical College System of Georgia Chancellor Ronald Jackson.

"We can do testing and whatnot to give them the college credit that's required to get the certification in whatever particular field their training was in," Jackson said.

Deal’s proposal would centralize such services in one facility near Robins Air Force Base, at a construction and design cost of $10 million.

Ongoing instruction would be provided by the Technical College System and the University System of Georgia, and paid for with their existing budgets.

In yet another lean budget year, not many new initiatives are likely to get much traction in the General Assembly, but Jackson is confident legislators will fund this one.

"It’s, uh, pretty hard not to support the returning vets," Jackson said with a chuckle.

State House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire) said it’s not a question of "if" the center will be funded, but rather where it will be located.

"In the initial budget hearing process the folks over in the Savannah-Hinesville area said ‘well why can’t we have it?’ And the folks in Columbus said ‘look there’s 70,000 military folks over here, that’s more than Warner Robins, so why shouldn’t we have it?'"

O’Neal, whose district includes Warner Robins, said the city's central location in the state makes it the logical choice.