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Program trains women for nontraditional jobs, but few are taking advantage


More than halfway through the grant term for Carroll County's Nontraditional Employment for Women program, coordinators say they've met many of their project goals.

But more women are needed to make the 16-month program a true success, said program coordinator Christy O. Lynch at a informal meeting between participants and the steering committee this week.

"We've made a lot of contacts with the business community," she said, adding that many businesses are willing to hire women in nontraditional jobs. "We don't have a pool of women who will consider working in dirty, nontraditional jobs.

"What we're finding in Carroll County is that we have to get them when they're younger," Ms. Lynch said. "It's a difficult choice and such a new thing for women. We're trying to educate them at this point."

In February, Carroll County received $99,682 of a $217,489 federal demonstration grant to create a program training and placing women in jobs usually held by men.

Baltimore received the rest of the money, awarded by the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the Non-Traditional Employment for Women Act, to develop a program for urban women.

If successful, the program could be copied elsewhere in the nation.

Evaluators will look at how many women attended seminars about nontraditional employment opportunities, how many completed the program's orientation and how many took a test determining their job skills and strengths, Ms. Lynch said.

The program will also be judged on how many women get training in a nontraditional occupation and whether they land a job in that field.

Ms. Lynch said program coordinators have met most of the goals for the grant, which ends in May. Originally, Maryland's programs had a joint goal of placing 80 women in nontraditional occupations.

"We've met most of our goals in education, orientation and assessment," she said. "The training and placement we're still -- working on.

"We can get them [the women] the training and probably get them placed in a job. Right now, we're doing as much community awareness as we can."

About 20 women have been involved in Carroll's program, Ms. Lynch said. Some are being trained in truck driving, computer technology and construction, she said.

Women take a one-week orientation course to learn about nontraditional careers.

Those women who choose to continue the program and are assessed as having suitable skills can then receive money for training through the Job Training Partnership Administration and use the county's job placement services.

"Christy and Sue [Yingling, program coordinators] are my personal job search fan club," said Wilma Fortney, who moved to Westminster from Mississippi in August looking for work.

A 1988 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in art, Ms. Fortney, 45, said she was unable to find a job in her field for 2 1/2 years while she helped her father deal with his wife's stroke.

She came to live with her brother, Don Fortney, because Maryland's job market is better, she said.

"They're my principal support," Ms. Fortney said of her brother and his wife, Carole.

Through the program, Ms. Fortney said she has realized her drafting and three-dimensional art experiences in college could easily translate to a job in construction and has had an interview with a female builder from Baltimore.

"Basically, JTPA has really supported me," she said. "All the questions I've had have been answered and it's a big boost to my self-esteem, which was pretty low after 2 1/2 years of not getting a job.

"They helped me find a direction career-wise."

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