Training program gives jobless recipe for success

November 22, 1994|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

When her doctor said she couldn't stay on her feet during pregnancy, Vandola Abel had to stop working. Employed since she was 16, she suddenly found herself on welfare.

"I wasn't brought up to take charity," said Ms. Abel, 33. "My father didn't even let us children borrow sugar from our next-door neighbor. And he was our cousin."

After her daughter turned 4 over the summer, Ms. Abel enrolled in a job training program sponsored by Anne Arundel County's Business and Workforce Development Center.

This year, she not only is employed, but she is about to be promoted to a lead kitchen position in Annapolis Mall's Cafe Nordstrom. In another year, she hopes to be a homeowner.

Today, Ms. Abel and five other workers, Kathryn Bettis, Gerard Gatling, Phillip Pearmon, Beverly Thompson and Michael Beebe, will be honored during a luncheon at Loews Annapolis Hotel for their success after they completed the center's job training programs.

Like Ms. Abel, two of the former trainees were on welfare. Two others were classified as at-risk youths, and one had been laid off.

The center, formerly the Office of Manpower, is a nonprofit corporation that provides job training and helps the unemployed find work. It receives $4 million in federal funding through the Job Training Partnership and the Family Support acts, said center officials.

The six honorees are among nearly 300 county residents who found jobs last year after receiving training through the center, said Pamela St. John, the center's training coordinator.

In all, the center helped 2,000 county residents in some capacity last year.

The center, in Severna Park, offers courses in office skills, word processing, cooking, construction, and building and maintenance. A nursing assistance program will open in January.

"We have a lot of options because our goal is to help people become employed again," Ms. St. John said.

Ms. Abel enrolled in the center's 18-week welfare-to-work program, called Project Independence. There she learned life skills and studied cooking.

Near the end of the program, she applied for a job at Cafe Nordstrom. Her graduation day in February coincided with the first day of orientation at Nordstrom's.

Mr. Beebe sought help from the center after being laid off in 1992, because of the recession, by a Virginia engineering firm.

Before that, until he retired in 1986 amid military reductions, he had been a systems analyst and Russian linguist for nearly 20 years at the National Security Agency.

"I was 47 years old, and I didn't know how to look for a job. I've never been unemployed," said Mr. Beebe, 48. "All my skills I learned all my life were suddenly invalid."

Mr. Beebe started his own fishing-lure business, then moved to the Eastern Shore to fulfill a boyhood dream of working in a fishing-tackle shop. He had to quit last fall after being diagnosed with cancer of the tonsil.

Doctors gave him six months to live.

"I was not going to be defeated by the cancer, and I was not going to be defeated by unemployment," he said. "I was going to beat both."

In the spring, he found the development center, which got him a $4,500 grant to pay for training in networking computers.

Three operations, 34 chemotherapy treatments and 283 resumes later, Mr. Beebe is cancer-free and is a network engineer at TeleCommunications Systems Inc. in Annapolis.

"You can't say, 'Woe is me,' all the time," Mr. Beebe said. "You've got to set your mind to it."

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