District Mayor Marion Barry was given a first hand look at what companies can do to boost employment and help upgrade communities yesterday during a tour of Control Data Corp.'s Capital Facility plant here, the only sizeable minority-operated manufacturing plant in the area.
The Computer company, based in Minneapolis, brings in unemployed youth, ex-offenders, and people on welfare rolls, provides on-the-job training and places them on jobs within the plant.
Workers - the majority of whom are women who head households - are offered day care facilities, counseling services, part time work schedules and education opportunities for them and their families through a computer based education program called Plato.
"I'm very impressed by what they're doing here," said the mayor, while touring the facility.
Nothing that his own program to attract new businesses to D.C. "is not doing very well," the mayor observed, "this company is not only bringing goods and services to D.C. with its own manufacturing, but is also using it to educate its workers."
Control Data, a $2.7 billion firm, launched a program to help educate and train inner-city workers after the 1968 riots here.
Focusing on its own interactive computer program system called Plato, the firm offered courses ranging from basic skills to post-graduate work to students while they learn at their own pace using computer terminals.
As part of its social responsibility program, the company opened plants in poverty areas, helped employes establish a line of credit by providing loans, offered financial and legal assistance including a bail bond system and simplified the application form.
But a major benefit of the program is the pride, sense of company loyalty, motivation and worker incentive that employes have demonstrated as a result of company efforts, spokesmen said.
Capital Facility, which began here in a converted warehouse in 1968, opened a 94,000 - square - foot plant on N Street NW in 1975.
The light manufacturing plant makes cable harnesses and electronic wiring parts for terminals. It employs 271 persons.
The facility houses a six - terminal "learning center" which employes can schedule to use during the day or after work hours. Family members pay $300 a year to use the center.
According to CDC executives, an illiterate can achieve a high school equivalency level using remedial mathematics and English computer courses.
"They come to us with relatively no marketability skills," explained Fredric Franklin, plant operations manager.
Of the current work force, 30 percent have been with the company at least five years, absenteeism is 3 percent, and the turnover rate is 1.4 percent, he said.
"it used to take us three weeks to get a worker to a grade one level," Franklin noted. "Now we can do that in one week or less with out computer based education."
Control Data employs about 4,000 in the D.C. area including Rockville administrative offices, and a learning center on L Street NW. The company plans to operate 80 learning centers in the U.S. by the end of this year, including a second center in D.C. CAPTION: Picture, Theresa Brown reacts to a kiss by Mayor Marion Barry during his tour of Control Data plant yesterday. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post