U.S. awards $2.5 million to train 300 for high-tech jobs

Baltimore County is picked to prepare people from region

Regional employment

July 20, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County was awarded a $2.5 million Labor Department grant yesterday to train workers in the region for highly skilled and high-technology jobs that currently aren't being filled.

In Greater Baltimore, for example, at least 8,000 information technology jobs go unfilled annually, according to Labor Department statistics.

The grant will underwrite the training of about 300 people in fields such as network design, digital media, systems analysis, telecommunications, programming, nursing, bioscience and animation.

"The Baltimore area is fast becoming an information technology hub," Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman said yesterday. "I've often said that we don't have a worker shortage in this country, we have a skills shortage. It's very important to make that distinction. ... This program helps incumbent workers, dislocated workers and those new to the labor force.

"We must do all that we can to get American workers ready and prepared for the future."

The grant is the second part of a three-stage Labor Department program that will invest nearly $80 million this year to train workers for high-tech jobs. The money is coming from fees received through the H1-B visa program, which allows companies to hire temporary foreign workers.

In this second phase, the department will grant $29.1 million to help train about 5,000 American workers for high-tech jobs often filled by foreign workers.

About 5,000 other workers across the country have already been trained during the first round of grant money, Herman said.

Baltimore County received $1 million last July to train dislocated workers in the area at its Catonsville Community College campus.

Working with unemployment agencies, the county enrolled 45 students in an intensive six-month program to train them as computer-automated design drafters and computer numerical control operators of milling machines and lathes.

Several local companies have participated in the training process so far, including Kenlee Precision Corp. in South Baltimore, Adcor Industries in Highlandtown and Ward Machinery in Hunt Valley.

Yesterday, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and fellow Maryland congressmen praised the grant program. "As you heighten the skills of some people so they can move up, you'll open the ladder to other people so they can move in," the Democrat said.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, agreed, saying: "We're not only building our region from a physical standpoint, but we're also building people. And when you build people, you build families and children. This grant will help people who want to move forward in life."

The Baltimore County Office of Employment and Training will manage the second round of grant money, but workers from Anne Arundel, Carroll, Cecil, Harford and Howard counties and Baltimore will also participate in the program.

People selected for this round of high-tech training will be found through job boards and individual referrals from participating agencies. After training, workers will be hired by local employers. More information is available on the Web site, www.doleta.gov.

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