Maryland workers take LEAP into more promising future Federal program enlists governments, unions, employers to aid employee literacy.

June 17, 1992|By Dina ElBoghdady | Dina ElBoghdady,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- Two thousand Maryland workers have "LEAP-ed" into a brighter future, thanks to federal grants that support workplace literacy programs.

Maryland's Labor Education Achievement Program (LEAP) is slated to receive $400,469 in July to fund the program's fourth year. With that money, LEAP hopes to help some 400 adults who lack high school-level reading, writing and math skills.

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday awarded $19.2 million in grants to 55 workplace literacy programs in 30 states, including Maryland.

The literacy program is part of President Bush's AMERICA 2000 strategy.

Betsy Brand, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, said LEAP programs are unique because they benefit employed workers.

The programs consist of partnerships between at least one business or labor organization and an educational institution. In Maryland, LEAP combines the efforts of the Maryland Department of Education, the Metropolitan Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO Unions and several businesses.

Eastalco Aluminum Co., the largest industrial employer in Frederick County, joined LEAP in 1990. Some 130 workers have taken literacy courses that emphasize the technologies used at Eastalco.

"The results have been amazing," said Ed Whitbred, an Eastalco superintendent.

"Before this program, workers used to leave their brains at the door and then pick them up to go back home."

"Before these changes, everything was routine and quality wasn't important," agreed Vivien Waldron, an Eastalco employee who attended LEAP classes. "Now we're doing work that management used to do before, and we're putting more into it."

Other improvements include retaining more and firing fewer workers, lower costs because of less supervision, improved writing skills, better communication and fewer injuries, said Pat Bennett, Workplace Literacy Project Director in the Maryland Department of Education.

LEAP also emphasizes confidentiality.

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