Giant plans to extend job program Welfare-to-work project to move into other counties, city; Pilot proves a success; 80% retention rate in Prince George's Co. prompts expansion; Employment


Nearly a year after first hiring former welfare recipients in Prince George's County through a government partnership, Giant Food Inc. plans to extend its welfare-to-work program into Baltimore and Howard, Montgomery and Baltimore counties.

Giant, the dominant grocery chain in the Baltimore-Washington region, has hired 127 workers, most part time, in Prince George's through a pilot program that emphasizes pre-screening, life skills training and mentoring.

A higher-than-average retention rate of 80 percent prompted Giant to expand the program to other jurisdictions that have a concentration of Giant stores or a high percentage of welfare recipients, said Barry Scher, Giant spokesman.

Employers that hire welfare recipients are eligible for state and federal tax credits worth up to $3,900 per worker in the first year.

"The workers want to get off welfare, and it's clearly RTC demonstrated by their work attitude," said Scher, who added that the company can lower training costs by reducing job turnover.

The program relies upon specialized training developed by Giant with the Prince George's County Private Industry Council, Prince George's County Department of Social Services and the Maryland Department of Human Resources. The 60 hours of training helps potential employees make the transition into the work world -- some for the first time -- and addresses issues such as transportation and child care. Giant also has a job coach who acts as a mentor to the new hires.

The former welfare recipients, who make an average of $6.50 an hour, are covered by the union and receive benefits.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening plans to highlight the program's success tomorrow during a stop at a Giant store in Largo, where he will honor Tracy Adams, a Giant cashier and the 100,000th Maryland resident to come off the welfare rolls since 1995.

The governor called the number of people who have moved off welfare in that time "a significant milestone."

"Partnerships between the public and private sectors, such as the one we have established with Giant, has enabled us to achieve this success," Glendening said.

The state hopes to entice other employers to use the Giant model, which can be tailored for specific industries, said Ken Crispens, a business and marketing liaison with the Department of Human Resources.

"We started in June of '97 with Giant and, because of the success rate, other industries have inquired about it," he said.

Safeway Inc. has recently developed its own program with the Private Industry Council using the same training program, and has begun hiring, said Greg TenEyck, director of public affairs for Safeway's Eastern Division.

The program prepares applicants to work at Safeway and guarantees them an interview, though the store has no obligation to hire the graduates, TenEyck said.

Pub Date: 6/22/98

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