Shed print shop turns jobless into skilled workers ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

October 22, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

In 10th grade, Terry Watkins dropped out of school. Now she's 33, a printing apprentice, and proving that it's never too late to learn.

Yesterday, the vivacious mother of three showed off her favorite press to a group of Annapolis officials and photographers who toured the small print shop where local housing officials run a program to teach the unemployed a skill that's in demand, even in today's tight job market.

The Annapolis Housing Authority turned an old storage shed at Eastport Terrace into a bright shop with four presses, school desks and a blackboard. Richard Livingston, a semi-retired printer who worked in the industry for 30 years, teaches the free, 12-week program.

The first five graduates all have found jobs, said Harold S. Greene, the housing authority's executive director.

"We've put together a first-class, state-of-the-art facility here that is still growing," he said before cutting a white ribbon, officially opening the shop. "This will give [people] an opportunity to learn on their own,and go out and grow on their own."

Mr. Greene said he came up with the idea for the program nearly two years ago when he was offered two printing presses by Edward L. Gresham, executive director of the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Annapolis. Mr. Gresham said he saved the two presses after discontinuing a printing program at the center on Forest Drive.

Multigraphics, a printing company in Baltimore, donated two more presses to get the program up and running.

Michael Crook, a 23-year-old from Deale who got fed up with working at fast-food restaurants, is in the second class with Mrs. Watkins. Running a printing press is exciting and often dirty work, he said, especially when the machines jam.

"It's fun getting dirty," he said with a grin. "You really never grow up -- you just get older."

Mr. Crook decided to learn the printing trade because he believes it will offer more job security and higher wages than restaurant work.

Mrs. Watkins, a Shady Side resident who just received her diploma through a high school equivalency program, finds the work more fulfilling than her part-time job as a custodian at Deale Elementary School.

Most of the participants live in public housing, but the program is open to other jobless people who need a hand in the job market. "It's taking people who have not had a history of successes and giving them job training," Mr. Livingston said.

Most of the participants have little or no previous work experience, but several were laid off from steady jobs because of the lingering recession, he said. The program doesn't guarantee placement, but the first five apprentices found work with commercial print shops.

Annapolis officials were delighted with the shop and talked optimistically of the future as they inspected the presses.

"I think this is just a marvelous program," said County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis. "I wish we had more like this."

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