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Partnership to promote stronger work force

October 31, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Working in partnership, manufacturers in Washington and Frederick counties, Hagerstown Junior College and Frederick Community College plan to use a $176,000 state grant to upgrade the area's work force and boost the number of higher-wage manufacturing jobs in the area.

The Potomac Manufacturing Advanced Technology Center will provide customized training for area manufacturers, said Robin Spade, HJC's associate dean of continuing education and economic development.

By getting together, the companies can save on the costs of training by pooling their resources.

"Much of it will take place at the manufacturers' sites," Spaid said.

Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Coordinator Beverly Baccala said the state has made it a point focus more on training and educating new and existing employees than on offering financing incentives for job creation.

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"(Training) is what companies are crying out for, especially with unemployment levels down," she said. "The pool to draw from shrinks and you want to make sure that the people that you have are working at their highest capability."

Pete Madeo, chairman of the program's industrial advisory council and director of human resources for ribbon manufacturer C.M. Offray, said he sees the new partnership linking the tremendous resources at the junior colleges with the unmet needs of industry.

"The whole purpose is to give the college an advantage in delivering the products where and when the businesses want them," he said.

"I think it's a great program from the standpoint of developing the area economically," said Joe Kennedy, plant controller at Sealy Mattresses in Williamsport and a council member.

"We need to develop our people better so we stop losing people and companies to other parts of the country," he said.

Chuck Ernst, president of stair manufacturer Duvinage, said developing the work force is a key factor in economic development across the country.

"Getting good people is a problem everywhere. One issue is trying to change what is being taught at the secondary level to meet manufacturers' needs, and the other aspect is what do you do with the existing work force when you can't get new people with the skills you need," Ernst said.

"Everybody's sort of caught in this quandary now," he said.

Kennedy said the education system has a goal of education while businesses want to make a profit.

"Those are not mutually exclusive goals. It's time for us to get together," he said.

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