Bell Atlantic to hire 2,000 over next year; Federal partnership aims to employ the disadvantaged


WASHINGTON -- Bell Atlantic Corp., the No. 2 local telephone company, said yesterday that it has agreed to hire at least 2,000 employees over the next year in a U.S. Labor Department program that also will help cut recruiting costs.

The program will place welfare recipients, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged adults in union jobs across the company's 13-state East Coast region, including Maryland. New York-based Bell Atlantic is the largest company to join the Workforce Development System, which supports local and state job placement programs.

Although eligible for federal money, Bell Atlantic turned down a $300,000 grant from the Labor Department to be a full partner with the government.

"This agreement will create a whole new pipeline of future workers while reducing our costs to find and hire qualified workers," said Ivan Seidenberg, Bell Atlantic chairman and chief executive. "In the high-tech arena, we can't afford to miss any qualified applicants for jobs."

Bell Atlantic's cost to fill "traditional core telephone jobs" will be lower by using the Labor Department's offices to complement its one or two centers per state, Seidenberg said. He didn't identify specific positions.

"Our experience is that the raw talent is in many parts of the society that we don't necessarily see," he said.

The agency will work with Bell Atlantic to choose qualified applicants for the positions, said Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman.

Applicants must complete a test for basic math skills, computer aptitude and reading skills, she said. Local outreach centers will then refer applicants to the company, which will make the final decision.

Morton Bahr, president of the Communications Workers of America, said the partnership will benefit the industry and the nation. "Rather than get into a debate annually over how many foreigners we're going to let in, we can go through what Bell Atlantic and the Department of Labor" have established, he said.

The program evolved from the 17 year-old Job Training Partnership Act, which was changed last year to help match workers with employers.

"This step by Bell Atlantic is exactly what we had hoped for with the new jobs network," Herman said. "It means that corporate America recognizes the value of the system we're building and is willing to commit to ensuring its success."

Herman said she is optimistic that Bell Atlantic's participation will encourage other U.S. companies to join the program.

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