PORTLAND - A program called Metro Step -- Skills Training and Employment Partnership -- has landed inOregon, after beating out 600 other applications across the country.

The $9.5 million federal grant will be used to train and upgrade the skills of current workers. It's recognition of the need in our area to address crucial gaps in the available labor pool.

The grant money will be used over a four-year period for 25 area companies including IBM, Boeing and Esco. The first wave of money will be used starting this April.

At Benchmade Knife Company in Oregon City, 20,000 square feet of new manufacturing space has been added and the company is looking for workers.

It's a hard grind trying to find the right people for the right job, said Rob Morrison, Director of marketing for Benchmade.

The new Federal labor grant to serve the Portland metro, Clackamas County and the Vancouver area will help.

The major benefit for us is it's on the job training, Morrison said. The grant actually allows us to hire people and use the funds to training them on the job so they can contribute on the factory floor .

Benchmade will added about 50 positions. Works Systems competed against some 600 regions across the country for the grant money.

This is where the demand is and this is where the growth is looking, said John Gardner, Director of Business for Works Systems. We're going to be looking to train and place into employment about 650 new workers.

The company will also up-skill 400 more current workers. In addition, 20 percent of the participants will be selected to complete a two year degree program.

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