College training center offers opportunity to sharpen job skills, improve marketability Occupational course helps displaced workers


Carmen Whittaker needed to update her computer skills. Pat Sikorski was familiar with keyboarding, but needed to develop HTC computer skills.

And both women needed jobs.

Ms. Whittaker and Ms. Sikorski were prime candidates for a new course offered by Catonsville Community College's Occupational Training Center. Computer Applications for Business, a noncredit course, provides nine weeks of intensive computer training for displaced workers -- aimed at improving their marketability in the work force.

"I took the course because I have some computer skills, but in the '90s, you need more than what I had in the '80s," said Ms. Whittaker, a former benefits analyst who was left unemployed after the Cigna Health Care office in Hunt Valley closed last year. "I needed to get up to speed."

The class -- limited to 12 students per session -- meets at the

college's Hunt Valley Center and is a joint project between the school and the Baltimore County Office of Employment and Training. Applicants are screened by the county's re-employment center.

"We base the decision on who gets recommended for the program on things like previous work history, the skills they already have and the person's desires," said Ellen Asplen, the center's manager. "We try to see if there is a match with the program."

Because of the small class size and the need for computer skills in the job market, Ms. Asplen said the course is in demand. "We have no problem filling the class," she said. "It's a wonderful resource for people."

Job placement specialist Sue Chalmers said the course is part of an ever-increasing trend among displaced workers to vary their skills. Companies want versatile employees, she said.

"What we are finding is that in today's economy there are no permanent jobs," Ms. Chalmers said. "The loyalty and longevity people used to expect is no longer there and you need transferable skills and flexibility in this job market."

Students learn to use several computer programs, including Word Perfect 5.1, Windows 3.1 and PowerPoint. More software instruction is added as technology changes, and Internet training recently was added to the course.

Nancy Ossa, another former Cigna employee, had only limited computer skills from work and said the class helped her become more comfortable with her home computer. Mrs. Ossa had purchased Windows 95 for her family to use but said not knowing how to use it herself was frustrating.

Now Mrs. Ossa -- whose former job involved hiring workers -- has the programs taught in class installed on her computer at home and recently subscribed to America Online. She said she is anxious to use her new-found skills.

"I haven't been out looking for a job in 21 years," Mrs. Ossa said. "Now I feel more confident."

For information on registration for the course, call 455-4544.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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