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Workforce training center for disabled in planning

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It's been an eyesore for more than a decade. And while we wait for the abandoned Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities building in Upper Tumon to be demolished, legislation is currently before lawmakers set to solidify plans to build a workforce training center for individuals with disabilities.

For almost a decade, the GCA Trades Academy has offered a variety of training programs to empower the region's workforce. "We are nonprofit nongovernmental organization that teaches construction traits and maintenance traits," said president Bert Johnston. "Our specialties have been HVAC and electrical, but other programs, as well."

And with the recent Record of Decision having been signed, along with other construction projects lined up, Johnston says now more than ever is the best time to get involved. "The timeline couldn't be better right now, because we have a large amount of construction on the horizon that's going to need skilled workers and that choice is to develop it locally or bring it in from off-island," he said.

These skilled workers apply to everyone including individuals with disabilities. Johnston says recent legislation would help with establishing more training. Bill 170 would authorize DISID to enter into an memorandum of understanding with the GCA Trades Academy for the construction of the Guam Regional Workforce Training and Development Center. "The thing is when we developed the trades academy, we did it for the interest of getting people into the construction industry, but apparently it also works for individuals with disabilities and we can work very closely together and we're very excited about it," he said.

This training center will be located on property where the old Vocational Rehabilitation Center was located. Last month, Asia Pacific International, Inc. was awarded the over-$72,000 contract to conduct the demolition. "It will be a training center, we do some of the clients for DISID already, so we've been working with them for awhile. And here's an opportunity to provide a training facility that both DISID and the Trades Academy can use," Johnston added. "For our program, it's training in the construction industry and they have other trainings. Part of it is training for employment, but other parts are for training are for people who have disabilities as far as being able to function."

DISID director Ben Servino says he also wants to incorporate a one-stop community resource and wellness center with the proposal. Johnston says the trades academy applied for a $2 million grant, but is also looking at other sources of funding to complete the project. The legislation outlines a 20,000-square foot single-story building with 12 multipurpose classrooms. Once demolition is complete and should the bill become law, Johnston hopes to have the project complete by October 2016 - in time for the GCA Trades Academy's ten-year anniversary.

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