CARIBOU, Maine — Two of the state’s most rural counties will benefit from a $4.9 million grant that aims to inject more health care workers into the state, and will receive about three-quarters of a million dollars.

The award, which will be shared by Aroostook and Washington counties, came from the U.S. Department of Labor. It was granted earlier this week to Maine’s local work force development regions.

Ryan Pelletier is executive director of the Aroostook-Washington Counties Local Workforce Investment Board, based at Northern Maine Development Commission in Caribou.

The mission of the Aroostook-Washington Counties Local Workforce Investment Board is to engage and promote work force development in the two-county area and to develop program policy and oversee the work force investment system in Aroostook and Washington counties.

Pelletier said Thursday the grant application was submitted last fall.

“This is a three-year grant that is going to provide the local area that comprises these two counties with $731,441 in funding,” he said. “This funding is going to support tuition costs for certified nursing assistants, associate degree nursing students, allied health care professionals and bachelor’s degree nurses.”

Pelletier added that part of the funding would finance additional clinical instructors for health care providers.

“There is a huge lack of health care workers in Maine, but also across the nation,” he said. “This is a way to counteract that problem.”

The Maine Department of Labor is serving as the grant recipient and fiscal agent. The department will enter into contractual agreements with the state’s four Local Workforce Investment Boards to implement the project throughout the state.

Pelletier said the goal is to train 400 participants statewide.

Pelletier already has met with the program manager from the state’s Labor Department assigned to the project, with executive directors from the Local Workforce Investment Board, to discuss the implementation of the grant and to design a State Project Advisory Group structure that will help guide the project over the next three years.

In the coming weeks, Pelletier also will work with the region’s hospitals, universities and community colleges to assemble a Local Advisory Group. The group will provide local guidance within the two-county region and will offer a unified link to achieve the goals of the project.

Barry McCrum, chairman of the Local Workforce Investment Board, pegged the project as “a great opportunity for the region and in particular the health care industry.”

“We are very excited that this grant has been approved and that our two-county region will benefit from it,” he noted. “Our immediate plans are to bring on a performance coordinator for the project to build and manage partner relations with employers and educators.”

McCrum said the individual would coordinate participant recruitment, link participants to supportive services and perform other tasks.

Pelletier said officials hope to have the program up and running by July 1 so participants can begin taking classes by Jan. 1, 2011.

The other Workforce Investment Boards are Tricounty, serving Piscataquis, Penobscot and Hancock counties; Central-Western, serving Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties; and Coastal, serving Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York counties.

For information about the Maine Health Care Grant Project, contact Pelletier at NMDC at 800-427-8736.