Job assistance center already attracts clients


The quiet, well-appointed office in the new glass-and-brick building next to the Towson Sheraton Hotel is upscale, even glitzy.

It's a sharp contrast to the usual, dreary unemployment office motif that Patrice Johnson, 41, an unemployed, college-educated secretary from Woodlawn, appreciates.

"It's different," she said. "The state unemployment office is very cold."

Diane Tracey, a Baltimore County job counselor, said the new office "is certainly nicer -- a beautiful facility."

After a two-month shakedown, Baltimore County's re-employment assistance center is holding an official ribbon-cutting opening today, amid a surprising rush of skilled, displaced workers who have already found their way to its door.

"I have been astounded at the number of people who have come through," Ellen Asplen, the director of the federally funded office, said yesterday. So far, 150 to 200 new people have come each month as a result of state employment office mailings, cable television ads and word of mouth.

Ms. Asplen said there are more and more white-collar and professional unemployed people whose specific skills are no longer in demand these days, despite the talk about a national economic recovery.

"Most people want to upgrade their skills," she said.

Everyone who comes into the office attends a mandatory orientation class, and seminars are available on stress management, resume writing, interviewing, marketing, money management and planning for retirement. The center also has job counselors, various computer services, fax machines and other help for those who want to prepare and transmit resumes and cover letters.

The county already operates several entry-level skill centers in Essex and Catonsville, but the new office is a bit more sophisticated -- aimed at highly trained unemployees whose jobs have disappeared.

Glen W. Golden, 34, of Owings Mills is among them. He lost his computer-related job at a health care information systems company in July. He was ready to move back in with his parents in New York when he got a letter from the state offering federally funded retraining arranged by the new Towson center.

Now he's working on an advanced computer certification course that he's sure will put him back to work. "This experience has re-established my belief in governmental effectiveness and follow-through," he wrote to John Wasilisin, director of county employment and training services.

Stephen J. Fauth, 42, was a first-time visitor yesterday. The father of three young children from Cockeysville was laid off by AAI Corp., a defense contractor, in May 1993. Since then he has worked as a temporary electronic technician for several companies. Now, he's out of work again.

"I figured I was set for life," he said of his former job at AAI, where he worked on drone aircraft that carry cameras over enemy lines and on the fuses of 500-pound bombs that explode after they penetrate a concrete bunker.

"Then Russia decided to take away our enemy," he said, and his job disappeared with the Cold War.

He was using the computer printer at the center yesterday to produce cover letters for his resume.

Barbara Parks, 50, of Timonium, lost her computer programming and analyst job Sept. 15 along with 40 other employees of the Farm Credit Bank of Baltimore.

Like the others, she attended the center's orientation and seminars, and uses the computerized job bulletin board, computer and printer for resumes. She's also looking for ways to reshape her mainframe computer skills.

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