NASA contractors get help finding new jobs

Lone Star State federal contractors who lose their jobs as NASA's space shuttle program is retired will receive assistance from the Obama administration in finding new work.

The Labor Department announced Thursday it would provide a $5.4 million grant to the Texas Workforce Commission to assist roughly 600 former contractor employees, most of whom worked at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. The funding will give displaced workers access to employment services, including skills assessments, job training and career counseling.

"Today's grant will give the talented and high-skilled workers of Texas the opportunity to find new jobs in expanding sectors of the state's economy," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a statement. "Our goal is to provide the necessary tools for these workers to identify and prepare for other career opportunities that will place them in new and permanent jobs."

Most of the affected workers were employed by Barrios Technology, Boeing Co., Cimarron, Fluor Corp., Hamilton Sundstrand, Jacobs/ESCG, Lockheed Martin Corp., Oceaneering Space Systems, REDE-Critique, SAIC, SGT Inc., or the United Space Alliance, a consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Awarded to the Texas Workforce Commission, the Gulf Coast Workforce Development Board will oversee the grant. More than $2.2 million will be released initially while the remainder of the grant will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance, the Labor Department said.

Labor is releasing the funds through the National Emergency Grants Program, which awards money to states that face "large, unexpected economic events which cause significant job losses."

The shuttle program is scheduled to end in November. As many as 20,000 contract and subcontract employees could be laid off, according to Labor estimates.

In June, the department provided a $15 million emergency grant to help 3,200 displaced aerospace contract workers in Florida polish up their resumes and hone their job-seeking skills. President Obama previously announced a separate $40 million program to spur post-space shuttle jobs in Florida based on recommendations last month by a federal task force co-chaired by NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Commerce will award $35 million in competitive grants to the most promising job creation and economic development programs while the remaining $5 million will fund a new Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center to support space launch and re-entry activities.

The White House announced a new direction for the space program earlier this year, calling for increased private sector involvement. The plan calls for the Kennedy Space Center to manage a five-year, $5.8 billion effort to help firms develop private sector space transportation.

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