Placement center helps professionals AIDING WHITE-COLLAR JOBLESS

December 12, 1992|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

Maryland will open a job placement center next month designed for people like John Freeburger and the tens of thousands of other white-collar workers who lost their jobs during the recession.

"It's being called the white-collar recession, and it's hitting Maryland real hard," Charles O. Middlebrooks, assistant secretary for the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, said in disclosing plans for the Professional Outplacement Assistance Center, to be located near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Unlike the department's 30 other job centers around the state, the new facility is intended to place laid-off management, technical and professional people in new jobs, Mr. Middlebrooks said.

He estimated that 40 percent of the unemployed workers registered with the state's Columbia job service office held white-collar positions. Most were in jobs paying between $45,000 and $100,000 and year, and unemployment is something they had never experienced.

The numbers are not much better in Baltimore, Baltimore County or Anne Arundel County, Mr. Middlebrooks said in explaining the location of the new center at 901 Elkridge Landing Road in Linthicum.

Looking at the state's latest unemployment statistics, Mr. Middlebrooks said there were 21,000 former white-collar employees looking for work on any given day. He said this figure represents nearly one-fourth of all the unemployed.

"This is a new phenomenon for Maryland," said Stephen R. Gallison, who heads the new outplacement assistance center.

Although the center is not scheduled to open for four weeks, Mr. Gallison's nine-member staff has found jobs for some laid-off pTC workers. In seeking to determine the needs of its clients and the equipment needed to set up the center, Mr. Gallison's staff worked over the past few months with a few laid-off white collar workers who had registered with the state's regular employment offices.

John Freeburger was one of them, and he feels mighty grateful. Mr. Freeburger was a quality management coordinator for the Martin Marietta Corp. Aero & Naval Systems Division in Middle River when he got word in July that his $52,000-a-year job was being eliminated.

The 42-year-old Carney resident had been with Martin for 10 years and had never been out of work.

"The first three days I was really despondent, depressed and worried," Mr. Freeburger said. "My wife worked at Macy's, but we knew we couldn't make it on her salary."

Through some friends, he learned about the state's budding program and contacted Mr. Gallison's office.

Mr. Freeburger said he went through difficult periods "of inactivity, when nobody was returning my calls, and I wasn't even getting reject letters," before he landed a job as director of manufacturing with Osteo-Technology International Inc. in Timonium.

"I was lucky," he said yesterday. "I'm making about the same amount of money, and I'm in a field with tremendous growth potential."

Unlike other state job service offices, the center will be equipped with special equipment and staffed "with hand-picked people" who have had experience in placing professional workers, Mr. Gallison said.

The center will have computers that can tap into job banks around the country. There's another data base that matches the skills of the unemployed with the type of people hired by companies in the Baltimore, Washington and Northern Virginia area.

This, Mr. Gallison explained, puts an unemployed person in line for a job even before there's an opening. "You die on the vine if you wait for an opening," he said. "You need to take a pro-active approach. This is an employer's market."

Mr. Gallison said the center will be able to accommodate about 40 people at a time, and the hope is to help 2,500 people the first year.

It will cost $500,000 a year to operate, with funding split evenly between the state and federal governments, Mr. Middlebrooks said.

"To my knowledge, there is not another center in the country the same as this one," Mr. Gallison said.

Mr. Gallison said the center is being designed to make th workers comfortable in seeking assistance, while avoiding the long lines at regular job service outlets.

"This has been pretty much a white-collar recession," said Ear King, manager of human resources at the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group based in Linthicum. Westinghouse has eliminated about 4,000 jobs over the past two years, many of them white-collar positions.

If the first center proves successful, Mr. Middlebrooks said, second may be opened in Montgomery or Prince George's counties, another region of high white-collar unemployment.

The service is free, Mr. Gallison said. "This is paid for by your ta dollars."

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