YWCA offers helping hand for getting a foot in the door Employment program: Job-seekers on public assistance or layoffs learn skills and receive tips on how to make a fresh start in the working world.

April 24, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

They bring their hopes to a nondescript red brick building that houses the YWCA Friendship Center at 97B N. Langley Road in Glen Burnie, where they receive clerical training and job-hunting skills.

They are mothers receiving Aid to Families with Dependant Children and laid-off workers looking for a new start.

For 18 years, they have learned payroll, filing, office machines, touch typing, bookkeeping and word-processing skills that could help them land jobs averaging $6.50 an hour.

They are people like Katherine Zissimos and Robert Thomas, both of Glen Burnie.

"I had worked for Down Under Parking Inc. for over 15 years," said Ms. Zissimos, 49, a former supervisor and assistant manager.

"Back in August 1995, they sold the business. The new owner didn't keep any of the old workers and that put me out on the street."

Like others in the program, she found out about it through the unemployment office. She graduated in March and landed a job at a Mountain Road gas station, only to quit two days later when she learned that she would be "a glorified gas station attendant," not the bookkeeper the station had advertised for.

"Normally I would have stuck it out. But that was a bit much," she said Monday while she combed through classified ads and printed more resumes at the center.

"It's about getting that break," said Ms. Zissimos.

Esther Weisman, employment director for the YWCA, said clients are told: "Get your foot in the door. Get some work history. Look around and see what's there."

In the next room, Mr. Thomas, 51, a laid-off dietary porter from the now-defunct Lafayette Square Nursing Center, sat at a computer where he practiced writing office reports.

"This was like French when I first started," he said. "I didn't have any experience with any of this. Now they have to pry me out of here with a crowbar."

Since he lost his job six years ago, he has helped his mother manage her rental properties.

Now, she plans to sell them, and he needs another job.

Mr. Thomas, who is midway through the program he began in February, hopes to be among the 80 percent of graduates who land jobs.

For encouragement, students receive certificates at a graduation ceremony when they complete each segment of the program.

Mr. Thomas said it helps.

"It's similar to a pat on the back. You're doing a good job. It motivates you on," he said.

A list of recent graduates who have found jobs is kept on a bulletin board near the entrance of the center, also to encourage students. To give them a sense of the work world, students are required to wear business attire every Thursday as well as every day during the last two segments of the program.

A rack of donated business clothing is available in a back room at the center.

"We try to teach them to put forth a professional manner even if they're going to a warehouse," said Erna Ray, who teaches students job-search skills.

Mock interviews also are conducted to help students prepare for interviews. And speakers are brought in every Thursday to discuss such things as personal finance.

"It's heartening to see people get on their feet," Ms. Weisman said.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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