Through F-35 Cost Controversy, Training Center Prepares Workers For Careers They Hope to Save

Texas Senator John Cornyn is fighting for the F-35 program.

Cornyn tweeted Tuesday about his meeting with Ret. Gen. James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Defense Secretary. Cornyn says they talked budget, cyber security and his support for the F-35.

The fighter jets are manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth.

Last week, NBC 5 reported that the company's president was planning to lower prices after a meeting with Mr. Trump, who has said the cost of the F-35 is "out of control."

Thousands of workers are caught in the middle of this. Lockheed Martin is a huge economic anchor and losing the F-35 would be a major blow to the region.

To avoid that, the company's president says she's close to a deal to cut costs and bring 1,800 new jobs to Fort Worth.

As the back-and-forth continues, a smaller company right across the street is quietly working to get skilled workers ready for the career that's almost within reach.

The sounds of industry are in the air at the Community Learning Center (CLC). But every move is preparation for the real work the men and women training there are striving for.

"Oh right across the street, Lockheed Martin. I'd love to get in," said CLC trainee Kinsey Williams.

The engine driving Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth is the F-35 fighter jet program that employs nearly 39,000 Texans.

"It's big and everybody wants to work there," said another CLC trainee Samantha Geter.

But when Trump tweeted he wanted Boeing to price out a comparable jet to cut costs, many of the Lockheed jobs the trainees are hoping for looked to be at risk.

However, Williams is still optimistic.

"The demand for the product is great demand, so I see it going even further," Williams said.

But he says people's jobs are not political football.

"Kind of put yourself in our shoes,” said Williams. “See what it feels like when you're first trying to get out there and get your first career started."

Jump-starting careers is just what the Community Learning Center is there for.

"Since 2000, we've trained and placed over 10,000 folks," said CLC President Pat Lane.

Their job placements are largely in aerospace and defense, but they've expanded to more than 100 different companies preparing in-demand skilled workers for the kinds of jobs politicians talk about.

“These are the kinds of jobs that we train for, that a person can raise a family, have good benefits and make a decent living," said Lane.

Jobs a community can thrive on.

The Community Learning Center gets federal, state and local funding to provide free job training for veterans and the unemployed or under-employed. You can also pay for a course if you don't qualify for free.

To learn more, click here.

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