Another benefit of the program is a stipend to cover

Scott Wallace, manager of the state labor department's dislocation services unit, noted that some training programs can be finished quickly. Truck driving, for instance. He urged workers to talk to his agency to help sort through the options.

"Everybody's situation is different," he said.

Josh Polanowski is hoping to land a job — he's pursuing a promising one — so his wife can go back to school to learn heating and air-conditioning installation and repair. They're looking for stability, and the profession seems to offer that possibility.

"That field is always going to be there," said Polanowski, 31. "You can ship steel from overseas, but very few air-conditioning people are going to come from over there to install air conditioning in a house. It's more of a certain career."

Martin has deeply mixed feelings about what to do. He would like to get his job back — not just for the pay but for the satisfaction of being part of an operation that helped build huge projects such as the Golden Gate Bridge, and for the camaraderie of a workforce he calls his second family. But he doesn't want to go through further cycles of layoffs and loss. If he finds another job — a good, stable job — he thinks he'd stick with it even if Sparrows Point were to land a new operator.

But if that new owner came in with plans to make big capital improvements, that would be a sign of true change — a signal that the younger workers could stick around for the long haul.

"I don't want to be in the same boat again in two years," Martin said.

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