U.S. Doles Out Year's Last H1-B Visa Training Dollars<@VM>ITAA, Labor Work To Expand Worker Pool<@VM>WebCT to Study Online Courses

By Gail Repsher Emery

The Labor Department late last month doled out $54 million in grant money to help train high-tech workers.

It was the third time the Labor Department allotted the grants this year, bringing the total to $95 million. The grants are paid for with a portion of the $500 fee companies pay for each H-1B immigrant visa. The visas allow firms to hire temporary foreign workers to fill tech jobs.

The money enables American workers to get training in occupations such as computer engineering, networking and e-commerce. Two earlier funding rounds took place in March and July.

Under legislation signed by President Clinton Oct. 17, employers using the H1-B program now will pay $1,000 per visa, generating an additional $101 million next year for high-tech training programs.
The Information Technology Association of America and the Labor Department Oct. 23 announced a partnership to help expand the U.S. high-tech work force.

ITAA will help Labor Department
officials better understand the industry's work force needs. The 26,000-
member Arlington, Va., trade association also will undertake a series of
activities to promote the importance of Workforce Investment Boards to high-tech employers in addressing training needs.

The investment boards are community partnerships of local industry and business leaders, education groups and local government officials that work to meet regional work-force needs.

"One way to get access to training dollars is by participating on these boards," said Marjorie Bynum, ITAA's vice president of work force development.

ITAA will conduct a series of regional seminars, host a national Web cast and develop a case study of a model investment board that has successfully engaged the IT employer community in a particular region.

"This partnership helps bring high-tech employers to the table with the work-force development community, and that's a situation which helps everyone succeed," said Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.

WebCT, a provider of an e-learning environment for higher education, announced in October it will underwrite a second annual study of best practices in online courses.
The independent study will examine exemplary Web-based courses and identify best practices in their use. WebCT officials said the study results will be a valuable resource for developers of online courses.

About 70,000 teachers worldwide use the WebCT online learning environment, according to the Lynnfield, Mass., company.

The study seeks to identify courses that meet criteria related to academic rigor and content robustness and which integrate online resources. Nomination forms and information are available at Nominations are due Nov. 17.

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