State office addresses white-collar recession Center helps professionals

January 21, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

They're middle-aged, middle managers out of work because of corporate downsizing. And the jobs they once held likely have been permanently erased from the work force.

But the thousands of unemployed, white-collar professionals across the state needn't despair, say directors of a unique, state-run center that opened last week near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Stephen R. Gallison, director of the Professional Outplacement Assistance Center on Elkridge Landing Road, feels confident the center's two-pronged approach -- advising the unemployed and going after employers to make a match -- will shorten the search process for anyone willing to heed counselors' advice.

For some, that might mean making changes in career, attitude or lifestyle, often a bitter pill for executives accustomed to annual salaries of as much as $100,000.

State Department of Employment and Economic Development officials opened the center Jan. 11, after two years of planning, as something of an experiment to address a white-collar recession that has left 20,000 professionals in the Baltimore metropolitan region jobless.

"This is a new phenomenon, new to this recession," said Robert L. Bethke, employment services manager for the center, a former human resources director for Cardinal Industries, which shut its Glen Burnie manufacturing plant in 1989. "We get people who don't want to work for less than $100,000 or less than executive. We tell them they have to rethink that" or risk remaining jobless and losing all they've worked for.

Unlike the department's 30 Job Service offices around the state, this center places only professional, technical and managerial workers. It offers clients the tools they need to find a job -- a library of reference and self-help books, computers, phones and a data base of 175,000 employers. And it offers guidance on networking, building relationships and strengthening marketing and personal skills from a staff that has worked in a cross section of fields.

"We show them how to network," Mr. Bethke said. "They'll try to send resumes but that [alone] doesn't work anymore."

In the center's first week, 75 professionals sought assistance.

Donna Reynolds, a 38-year-old former insurance company administrative policy writer who has been out of work since December, said the hardest part of unemployment is the feeling of no control.

She came to the center yesterday to search a computer list of employers in industries where she might transfer her skills.

"Job hunting is difficult, like a job," she said. "But this is one-stop shopping for professionals. You get initial contacts for job openings that you can't find in the paper."

Instead of handing clients a list of employers and moving on to the next client, the job counselors investigate employers' needs as well, meeting with them to offer a menu of potential matches.

The approach appears to be working. Staff members have placed 35 clients since November, when the program began gearing up.

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