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CLEVELAND -- The steelmaker hosting President Barack Obama has a good grasp of its future employment needs.

The increasingly technology focused industry requires more and more highly trained workers for its future work force.

And to fill that need, Arcelor Mittal is using a program called Steelworker of the Future, where it links with community colleges.

It pays for students' classes, training and internship during the two-years-plus program.

Graduates get an associate's degree and, if the company is hiring, a job with ArcelorMittal.

The company says graduates accepting positions will be earning an average $90,000 per year within three years with full benefits..

Cheyenne Burns Jefferson is one of about 70 students taking part in the program at Cuyahoga Community College.

"I take physics, digital circuitry. These things are foreign to me," she said.

Yes, it's not your father's or grandfather's steel industry.

When Local 979 union President Mark Granakis began at Republic Steel (which became LTV, which became Arcelor Mittal) there were about 18.000 workers. Now there are about one tenth of that.

"It was very labor intensive. Computers were something IBM had," Granakis said.

"We have a lot less people working, more computers, more automation, so the job is more of a technician," said Eric Hauge, general manager of the Cleveland works.

The company had trouble filling high-skilled positions, so it began the program at 11 community colleges near its plants.

Its work force averages more than 50 years of age, and between 60 and 80 workers are retiring annually at the Cleveland plant.

The program is also in place at Lakeland Community College. And a similar program will start next spring at Lorain County Community College.

Graduates are not required to go to work at ArcelorMittal. Many industries have openings for workers with their skill.

It's likely that ongoing steelworkers will continue to need training.

Tri-C's Vice President of Technical Programs Michael Bankey said, "It's all about lifelong learning."

Meanwhile, Cheyenne is eager to start her job sometime next year.

Both of her parents are steelworkers and are fortunate to still have jobs.

"I think it's a way to security. ... It's going to be a good job i can retire from," she said.

Those wishing to learn more about the Tri-C linked program can go to tri-c.edu/steelworker.

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