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$250,000 grant to retrain 100 workers in Md.

December 13, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN

The Western Maryland Consortium, a regional work-force development agency, has been approved for a $250,000 grant to help pay for skill enhancement training for workers in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, executive director Peter Thomas said Friday.

The money will go a long way toward supporting an organization struggling to aid a growing number of unemployed workers on a limited budget, Thomas said.

"This is probably the busiest that we've been in a very long time," Thomas said. On Thursday, Thomas and other consortium representatives made a presentation at Citi, which announced last week it would lay off 121 employees at its Washington County facility in 2009. Next week, they will make a similar presentation at Volvo Powertrain North America's Washington County plant, which is laying off 142 people Jan. 5.

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In addition, the consortium is helping employees laid off when Rayloc closed its Hancock plant in March, Thomas said.

Fueled by these and other layoffs, the unemployment rate in Washington County rose above 6 percent in October for the first time since 2002, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The skill enhancement grant comes from the U.S. Department of Labor through the state, Thomas said. It is enough to pay for training for about 100 people, he said.

Training aid is limited to workers who show a demonstrated need and is aligned with the skill shortages being experienced by local employers, according to the consortium's Web site. Current areas of need include health care and truck driving, Thomas said.

In addition to skill development aid, the consortium partners with local One Stop Job Centers to provide job search assistance, resume development, Internet access and career information.

The organization is struggling to provide these services at the current rate of demand, especially because its budget has been reduced by 50 percent over the past five years, Thomas said.

So far, the consortium has not had to cut back on any services, he said.

"We're doing everything we can to keep up, because our customers are our No. 1 priority," he said.

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