WHEN YOU HAVE a great business concept that requies trained personnel, one of the first concerns is making sure the workers have the necessary job skills. Private Industry Councils were created to help train people for skilled jobs.
The PICs were started in 1983 by the state in response to federal legislation that funded their creation. PICs, which exist through the combined support of both government and local businesses, promote employment growth through special job training. They offer employers assistance in training for existing or new employees.
There are 12 PICs in the state; many of the ones in central Maryland are responsible for only one county. Each PIC is a little different from the others since each is tailored to fit the needs of the local economy and local businesses. A number of the PICs are administered by the local county or city governments, while others have their own staff and office space. One of their main roles is to express opinions to the local governments on the need for training in their respective areas and on the effectiveness of any existing programs.
Each PIC is responsible for managing federal money and other contributions. Each one has a volunteer advisory board that creates an overall employment training plan for its jurisdiction. The board generally consists of representatives from business, labor, education, and vocational rehabilitation. The Maryland Department of Economic & Employment Development, which oversees the PICs, also has a representative.
Leslie M. Pittler, director of the Baltimore County Department of Community Development, says the PIC targets "just about any situation where you are dealing with an economically disadvantaged person..." Pittler, whose office oversees the delivery of PIC services in Baltimore County, says, "The role of a PIC is to become the one-stop shop for information and assistance, to expand employment within a community." PIC programs target the unemployed and people who have skills that are not fully utilized in their current jobs.
PICs provide a channel through which a business person can get financial assistance to train employees. Financial support to provide training for new or existing employees is an incentive to the employer to create specialized training programs. Any company can participate in the various training efforts, which can be either on-the-job or in a classroom setting.
Dorothy McGuinness, director of Anne Arundel County's Office of Manpower, oversees the PIC activities in her county. She says "the structure is a reflection of Maryland's local economies." The PICs are designed to help the local jurisdictions "keep their fingers on the pulse" of the requirements for training activity in the local labor force.
Anne Arundel's PIC promotes the county's "Welfare to Work" training program, which targets up to 600 single parents who are currently receiving support from Aid to Families with Dependent Children. It has also locally sponsored a state program called Maryland's Tomorrow that focuses on providing special training for students who have a high probability to withdraw from school.
Many PICs promote a program called the "A Team." It teaches disadvantaged youths basic construction skills. A PIC finds a non-profit organization that needs a relatively simple project to be built, such as a tot lot, a wall or a wood fence. The non-profit agency has to pay only for the materials.
Dennis Rasmussen, Baltimore County executive, created "J-O-B-L-I-N-K" with the local PIC's help. If you dial the letters, you will be connected to a center that provides information regarding starting an employment training program or participating in an existing training program in Baltimore County. As in many other jurisdictions, the county provides classroom instruction in conjunction with the local community colleges. In the 1989-90 fiscal year, the county spent over $250,000 training people in PIC-recommended programs.
Requirements: So what's the catch? The employer must complete some paperwork to apply for the reimbursement of expenses and to track the progress of the participants.
The Partnership for Workforce Quality and the Maryland Industrial Training Program are programs that PICs promote. They are based on the reimbursement of half of the training expenses for a new or existing employee. Before your business is approved for either program, you must fully document how the participants will be trained. Once the program starts, you will be reimbursed by the state within approximately 30 days of the submission of your expense receipts.
Making contact: Any company can contact the local PIC to obtain more information. Each program is somewhat unique to the jurisdiction, so it is important to realize that each has an administrator who is the first point of contact. To get the phone number for the PIC nearest you, call Vernon J. Thompson, director of Contracts & Operations, at DEED's Office of Employment Training. 1 (301) 333-7650.
The Bottom Line: Contact a PIC so your business can participate in a job training program or get employee training assistance.
Patrick Rossello, president of The Business Consulting Group, is a member of a number of local advisory boards, including the Baltimore Economic Development Corp. Send questions or suggested topics to him c/o Money At Work, The Evening Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.