Md. launches 4 advanced technology centers Community colleges will train workers

September 20, 1996|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Sometimes a good tale or two can even nudge bureaucracy into action.

Business has long lamented the lack of a skilled work force in the state, but the tale of one Maryland businessman's hopeless attempt to get employees trained for jobs at his company particularly struck Gov. Parris N. Glendening when he took office.

John Franzone, president of Fawn Industries, a Hunt Valley company that makes custom injection molding using laser technology, wanted to build two plants in Maryland. But he ZTC needed workers with a particular expertise.

So he went to the community colleges and offered to donate equipment for training if they would help teach the work force.

When he didn't get help, he settled in North Carolina, a state that could provide the resources he needed.

Glendening related the story yesterday as the state launched four advanced technology centers at community colleges on the Eastern Shore, in Baltimore and Southern Maryland that will attempt to address the problem.

The state has provided $2 million in grants to the colleges, but an additional $10.7 million has been contributed by businesses, the federal government and local governments to train workers in fields such as aquaculture, aerospace and biotechnology.

State officials hope the centers will help Maryland be more competitive in keeping companies and luring new companies by promising to train workers for them.

"If we don't have technological training, we will not be competitive and, far more important, our citizens will not have the jobs to support their families," Glendening said.

Too often in the past, said Carolyn Hock, who coordinated efforts at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development to put the centers together, the state has trained workers for jobs that didn't yet exist.

But the new effort will train workers for specific jobs, sometimes with specific companies.

In addition, the state's community colleges, which sometimes compete with each other for students and resources, will be working together.

So teachers from Catonsville, which has a large department to turn out auto mechanics, can provide faculty for a new program at Chesapeake College.

For a small-business person it could mean the ability to expand a business or keep one alive.

In Salisbury, a small businessman, Rafael Correa, president of MaTech Inc., has turned down new contracts because he could not find workers to operate the high-tech equipment in his precision machining business.

Correa said the state had acted quickly to try to fill his needs. One of the centers will be at Wor-Wic Community College and is designed to upgrade the skills of manufacturing employees.

Another at Chesapeake College will train workers for jobs in tourism and automotive technologies.

Lee Denny, president of Bob Smith Automotive in Easton, said there is a tremendous need to train people to work on technologically advanced cars with global positioning sensors or air bags that call 911 after a crash.

Students can begin learning automotive skills at a high school laboratory at Easton High School and then move on to Chesapeake College.

State officials said they expect to add three or four new centers around the state within the next couple of years.

Pub Date: 9/20/96

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