Layoffs fuel job-related businesses RECESSION'S SILVER LINING


If every cloud has a silver lining, the dark cloud of recent job cuts throughout the economy has a brighter side for businesses that help people find work.

"Business is booming," said Wendy Enelow, owner of The Advantage Inc., a career counseling and resume preparation service in Catonsville. "So many people are scrambling for jobs."

Enelow estimated that she is seeing 35 percent more people now than she did a year ago. As a result, she has hired two additional workers. "We had our best month ever in January," she said.

Many of the workers looking for jobs are from the defense industry, real estate and financial businesses and construction -- fields that have been the hardest hit by the recession, Enelow said. They come to services such as Enelow's seeking help on how to prepare a resume that will draw the attention of prospective employers.

"We're just as busy as we can be," said Karen Tucker, a spokeswoman for Career Pro Resume Service, which has offices in 450 locations, including Baltimore. Traditionally January through June is a busy time for resume writing services, as workers contemplate changing jobs and students facing graduation prepare to search for their first jobs. But this year seems especially busy, Tucker said.

Many laid-off workers also are turning to temporary jobs until they find permanent work again.

Marcia Tribble, district manager with Kelly Services Inc., said her agency is seeing more qualified office workers, but having more difficulty placing them because some companies are cutting back on their temporary help.

But some of the companies have chosen to lay off permanent workers and turn to temporaries to work at busy times. "We're seeing companies laying off large masses of people shotgun style and not realizing certain jobs need to be done," said Ed Southerland, vice president of Robert Half Accountemps, a temporary employment agency that specializes in accountants and office workers.

Because more workers are available, they are being screened more carefully, he said. "Two years ago, we were struggling to get people to do the job. It's just the opposite now."

Don Richard Associates of Baltimore Inc., another job placement agency, has extended its hours to handle the increased number of applicants. The agency is now open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. rather than from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Career counselors also are seeing more clients. Some of the clients are workers who already have lost their jobs while others are workers who fear they will lose their jobs.

Dr. Ralph Raphael, a career counselor in Baltimore, said he has seen business increase from a variety of sources. Some clients are referred to him by employers who ask him to help former workers overcome the stress of losing their jobs. Other businesses, trying to be more careful in their hiring, employ Raphael to screen prospective employees.

"I'm busier than I've ever been," Raphael said. While some of that business reflects an increased caseload as he builds up his practice, some of it can be attributed to the economy, he said.

Sandra Huss of Maryland New Directions Inc., a job counseling service, said frequently the clients she sees are preparing for the possibility of losing their jobs. They are looking to her to help inform them of other employment possibilities. While business is picking up, she said it is too soon to tell whether the recession is playing a significant part in the increased interest.

The slowdown in the economy and the layoffs also may be affecting enrollment at community colleges and trade schools as workers return to the classroom to learn more marketable skills.

Virginia Tanner, a spokeswoman for Villa Julie College, said applications for the freshman class next fall are running about 100 ahead of those at the same time last year. "We're noticing a great number of older students," she said. "This includes a lot of people who have been laid off or who are concerned about being laid off," she said.

Among some of the more popular courses are those related to computer skills and business, she said.

"In a recession, you normally see an increased interest in technical education," said H.V. Leslie, vice president of RETS Technical Training Center in Baltimore, which began 36 years ago.

The center teaches electronics, climate control and engineering drafting. Leslie said that while the current slowdown only recently began, there are signs that enrollment is increasing.

"I think it's the beginning," he said.

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