Los Angeles officials, businesses and a community college are joining forces to address a skilled-worker shortage and high unemployment in some city neighborhoods.

The Regional Economic Development Institute, to be announced today by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, aims to train thousands of low-income students in the skills necessary for jobs with city agencies and private businesses. The institute, which has already begun operation, is modeled after successful programs in other cities that match training with available local jobs, many in technology-related fields.

"We have a very robust economy here," said Denise Fairchild, who directs the new institute at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College near downtown, "but every employer we've talked to is dying to find skilled workers."

And though the regional economy may be strong, unemployment and underemployment remain stubbornly high in pockets such as South Los Angeles.

The institute's industry partners, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the California Restaurant Assn. and Southern California Gas Co., will help develop curriculum to enable students to move directly from the classroom into jobs, she said, although jobs are not guaranteed. The institute will emphasize emerging technology fields such as solar installation and water recycling and reclamation.

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