The city of Baltimore took a big step toward re-establishing a job training center in the Park Heights neighborhood, welcoming a program designed to help people learn manufacturing skills that are in demand, find a job and manage their money.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday that a Chicago-based nonprofit with 30 years' experience in the field will move into a former elementary school in the Park Heights neighborhood that was the site of a similar training program that closed last year.
The center, run by the Jane Addams Resource Corp., "will keep our city and our economy growing," Rawlings-Blake said.
Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the mayor's office of employment development, said the center will be "a place of opportunity for residents throughout the city."
The center will offer programs in welding and running computerized machine tools, skills that are in demand now and expected to be in the future in advanced manufacturing, Rawlings-Blake said. JARC, which has inspired similar efforts around the country, also will offer classes in household finances, boosting credit scores and job hunting.
The center's training programs are expected to begin April 27, but it is open now on Wednesday mornings to accept applications for the classes, which can accommodate 60 to 70 trainees. The courses are expected to run 14 weeks for welding, 20 weeks for computer numerical control, a widely used technology in automated manufacturing.
The JARC program will take up most of the first floor of the two-story former Park Heights Elementary School, with room for other tenants as the city pursues its plan to establish a regional training center there, said Mackenzie Garvin, special assistant to the mayor's office for economic and neighborhood development.
She said the city is providing the space rent-free to JARC in hopes that its presence as the "anchor tenant" helps to draw others to provide complementary services.
The vacant elementary school at 4910 Park Heights Ave. was converted into the Magna Baltimore Technical Training Center by Magna International Inc., whose chairman, Frank Stronach, owns the nearby Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.
The Magna center opened in the fall of 2005 and graduated its last group of trainees last June. Other training programs have continued to use the building through this winter, Garvin said.
She said Magna sold about $1 million worth of equipment to the city for $1, and JARC will bring in any additional equipment the program needs. The center is expected to cost about $700,000 a year to run, with the money coming from private foundations and state and federal sources, but no direct city money.
The city's contribution is free rent, snow removal and maintenance, said Howard Libit, director of strategic planning and policy for the mayor.
Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel, a small, growing manufacturer in South Baltimore that is on the new training center's board, said the program will help to answer the demand for job skills that manufacturers need.
"It's a very important tool for the city," said Greenblatt, who said he hired a man in 2011 who completed the computerized automation system training at the Magna center and is still working at Marlin, which makes wire baskets and other specialty metal pieces used in manufacturing.
Greenblatt, an advocate for this type of training, said the center "is going to help poor inner-city people get onto the middle-class path."