Hanover firm helps smooth bumpy road ahead for laid-off workers

September 21, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

The job placement consultants hired by General Electric in 1989 had their work cut out for them: help find work for some 850 people who would lose their jobs when G.E. closed its plant in Columbia.

The team of 11 consultants tried something a little different, a system that would give employees advance notice of layoffs and offer continuing family and job counseling. The team placed 85 percent of 850 displaced G.E. workers.

Since then, four of the G.E. consultants have opened their own job placement service: Transition & Actualization Associates, Inc. the Parkway Corporate Center in Hanover. The name's a mouthful, but behind the corporate lingo lies a different approach to the often painful ordeal of unemployment.

The service offers job search training, computerized job and business listings, help with resume and cover letter writing and counseling. But it's not a conventional placement service or headhunter, said Cecelia A. Evans, Transition's president.

"A typical out-placement scenario for hourly workers involves a company coming on site offering a one- or two-day workshop on how to look for a job and write resumes," said Ms. Evans. "In most cases, it doesn't go beyond that. That training is good, but they need ongoing support."

Typically, the company that plans layoffs or a reorganization hires Transitions & Actualizations under contract for a set period of time. For job seekers or companies looking for employees, the service is free.

Both Ed Eckhardt and Brenda Pearce lost their jobs when Baxter Healthcare Corp. closed its operation in Savage and moved to Florida. Baxter hired Transitions, which operated at the Savage office before the medical manufacturer closed.

"At the time, I thought I could find something pretty easily, with my experience," said Mr. Eckhardt, 35, an electronics technician from Linthicum who lost his job in May. "I couldn't find anything."

Brenda Pearce, an electronics assembler, lost her job at Baxter in March. She said her fruitless six-month job search led her to seek school cafeteria and bus driving jobs, to no avail.

Through the job center, Mr. Eckhardt attended job search and resume workshops and researched area companies via computer. He's found he needs to expand his search to the medical field, data communication and consumer electronics.

Once a week, he calls the center to check job postings.

"You have to let people run through cycles, giving it everything they have, then looking for other options," Ms. Evans said. "You can't push people through."

Though he hasn't found a job yet, Mr. Eckhardt hasn't lost hope.

"Any type of information is helpful," he said.

The center has placed more than 80 of 120 Baxter engineers, managers and clerical workers looking for jobs, said Kristin Keller, a job development specialist.

The center encourages workers who've come from large companies to look for jobs at smaller companies where there is less competition, and to consider companies other than those that advertise in the paper.

TTC Advertised jobs account for only 15 percent of all available jobs, Ms. Evans said.

Many of the employees the center helps have worked at the same company 20 years and never had to write a resume or cover letter, she said.

"When we got to G.E., people thought if they said 'I'm a hard worker, I want a job,' they'd get a job," she said. "Basic things you take for granted, people don't know how to do. One guy

didn't realize he needed a cover letter, then he called to ask, 'Do you sign it?' "

While working on site at Baxter, the counselor spent time on the plant floor talking to employees. "That's an incredible stress reliever," Ms. Evans said. "They don't feel like they're abandoned by the company."

The center also offers family counseling, recognizing the severe emotional stress that can accompany a layoff and job search. Ms. Evens said the suicide rate among displaced workers is 30 times the national average. Two G.E. workers had committed suicide during two previous waves of layoffs before the company hired consultants.

"When you find out you're losing your job, that's often the thing that pops the kettle," she said.

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