Community colleges get use of stimulus funds

At a time when many South Sound residents are laid off and need training for new careers, local community colleges are facing the stiffest cuts in years.

That’s why several hundreds of thousands of federal stimulus dollars are being spent to fund college classes for the unemployed – from truck driving courses to training to become a health care worker or a pastry artist.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Workforce Development Council has spent $1.4 million so far in stimulus money to pay for extra sections of in-demand classes at local community and technical colleges.

One student taking advantage of the help is Lokeni Lokeni, who was laid off from his offshore oil drilling job in October.

Lokeni, 27, is now in his fourth week of a six-month commercial truck driving program at Bates Technical College.

He said he tried to find work in the oil industry, but no one was hiring. When he researched training programs for truck driving, he thought he couldn't afford them, he said.

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