AlliedSignal gets grant to retrain 459

October 06, 1994|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Sun Staff Writer

A Labor Department grant announced yesterday will preserve hundreds of jobs at the AlliedSignal Inc. plant in Towson, where Pentagon spending cuts have raised the threat of layoffs.

In what the government is calling a first-of-its-kind program, Allied was awarded $7.1 million to retrain and upgrade the skills of workers to safeguard jobs as the company shifts from defense to commercial markets.

As a condition of accepting the money, Allied must keep the workers on the payroll for three years.

The Towson plant, one of six Allied facilities to receive money from the grant, is expected to get about $1.5 million, which it will use to retrain 459 workers. The grant would also be used to secure 1,631 jobs at other operations in Phoenix; Sylmar and Torrance, Calif; Stratford, Conn.; and Teterboro, N.J., the Labor Department said.

"The federal government or the Labor Department has not provided this kind of assistance before," Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich said in a telephone news conference.

"But it is far better to help retrain workers when they are still employed for jobs in the same company than it is to wait until they have lost their jobs," he said.

According to James L. Robinson, director of human resources at Allied's Government Electronic Systems division in Towson, there were no immediate plans for any layoffs. But, he said, "there was a very real long-term threat" to the 459 positions covered by the company's retraining program. The company has about 1,200 workers in Towson.

Mr. Robinson said the Baltimore County complex already has begun a $14 million restructuring designed to reduce its dependence on military contracts. He said the grant money would accelerate the division's five-year plan to move into commercial markets and become a global supplier.

Mr. Robinson said that Allied will use the grant to teach workers computer skills, how to operate new production machinery and in team work.

Pentagon orders account for about 90 percent of the division's total sales, and the company hopes to reduce that to 60 percent, Mr. Robinson said.

Allied's workers in Towson are involved in the development and production of such things as electronic equipment to identify military aircraft, parts for the Patriot missile and equipment to secure the information in computers at the National Security Agency.

Allied applied for the Labor Department grant. Acknowledging that Maryland is heavily dependent on the defense industry, Mr. Reich said that other state defense contractors, including the local Westinghouse Electric Corp. division, could also qualify for federal assistance.

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