Earlier this year, people who ran the county's job services programsfretted about budget cuts in the face of doubling unemployment.
But tomorrow, thanks in part to a statistical quirk caused by the demise of General Electric's Appliance Park East last year, they will open the new Career Resource Center next door to Howard Community College. The center will be able to serve an extra 200 clients a year.
"GE had a major impact in bringing more dollars to us," said Bruce Wahlgren, administrator of the Howard County Employment and Training Center, which will run programs at the new center, an expansion of its facilities on Rumsey Road in Oakland Ridge Industrial Center, Columbia.
The center will help clients prepare to enter or re-enter the job market. Programs will serve people on welfare, high school students, senior citizens, foreign-born residents, laid-off workers and others through various federal-, state- and county-subsidized programs.
Clients will learn job skills, get help with resumes and cover letters and even meet potential employers if necessary.
Some training money from the federal Job Training Partnership Act, which funds the program, had been cut in recent years, and
even deeper cuts were expected for this year because of tighter state and federal budgets.
But because General Electric closed its range plant last summerand added nearly 700 people to the JTPA's Dislocated Worker program,the program qualified for more money -- from about $200,000 last fiscal year to $300,000 this year.
The money is earmarked to help laid-off workers, but the center's two new counselors also will be able to help job-seekers enrolled in other JTPA programs, Wahlgren said.
In addition, Project Independence, a state program aimed at helpingpeople get off welfare rolls, is expected to get an extra $70,000 over its original $250,000 allocation because the county was able to provide more money than expected. That also meant the program could collect more federal matching funds.
The center will cost about $120,000 to start and staff the first year, and will serve about 400 people, Wahlgren said.
The existing JTPA facility on Rumsey Road in theOakland Ridge Industrial Center, which didn't have the space to expand beyond its four counselors and five administrative staff members, could have only accommodated half as many clients, Wahlgren said.
In addition to making room for an extra 200 people, he said, "we can spend more time with each client helping them prepare their
resume, helping them with their job search, making contacts with employers."
The contacts are especially important in finding the "hidden jobmarket," he added.
"Many of the employers prefer to fill the positions through word of mouth rather than advertising," he explained, "so they don't get flooded with hundreds of applications for one position."
The existing facility is poorly served by public transportation, said Cynthia Williams, a 45-year-old single mother of four who is working toward a nursing degree from Howard Community College because of Project Independence, which is aimed at getting people off of public assistance and into the job market.
Buses only go to the Rumsey Road facility every two hours, while buses serve Howard CommunityCollege every hour.
Many JTPA clients take courses at HCC, which makes the new location even more convenient, Wahlgren said.
Williams is one of eight current and former JTPA clients who will be recognized for their achievements tomorrow in conjunction with the new center's opening.
She has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was a young girl living in Washington, but "during the '60s, you got married and had a family," and stopped short of pursuing a nursing career.
A social worker encouraged her to enroll in the program a year ago, and after getting A's and B's in writing, math and study skills programs, expects to start in HCC's nursing program in the fall or spring.
She said the JTPA program "keeps me motivated because there arepeople behind me."
Stephanie Dorsey, a 23-year old single mother of two, agreed.
"They give you every opportunity . . . everything that stands in your way, they're there to knock down the barrier," said Dorsey, who also will be recognized for her accomplishment.
When she started the program a year ago, she was a Wilde Lake high school dropout with two children to support on public assistance.
Todayshe has a one-year certificate from Howard Community College and a secretarial job in her Oakland Mills village apartment complex.
Theprogram helped her with day-care expenses and paid her $6 a day in addition to her regular welfare payments while she attended school learning records management, business English and word-processing.
While it's not easy to go to school while still worrying about taking care of a family," Williams said, "if you've got a problem there's always somebody you can call and talk to about it."
Besides Project Independence clients, tomorrow's event will also recognize clients whohave completed the county's Summer Youth Employment Program for economically disadvantaged youth, its Dislocated Worker program, Maryland's Tomorrow for teen-agers at risk of dropping out of school, Older Worker Program and its Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network.