For the out-of-work professional seeking to reenter the job market, the Washington Regional Employment Services Team (WREST) provides a unique service combining personal counseling with pragmatic job-hunting skills and techniques.

WREST was formed in 1977 as a volunteer, self-help organization designed to meet the specific needs of unemployed and under-employed professionals. Its predecessor group, known as VEST (Volunteers, Engineers, Scientists and Technicians), was founded in the early 1970s to assist the growing number of aerospace industry employes who were losing their jobs.

"A need was seen to provide services for engineers and technical people as well as support people, teachers and administrative types," explained Kopel Hyman, administrative coordinator for WREST.

According to Hyman, the primary function of WREST is "peer counseling or self-assuurance counseling." All serviices are free. WREST, which has its offices in Kensington Junior High School, receives funding only in the form of two staff positions paid for by CETA.

Most of WREST's members are referred there by the Wheaton Employment Security office. Some had been involved in programs at New Phase, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Rock Creek Foundation and veterans' organizations.

According to WREST, 31.4 percent of all unemployed persons registered at Montgomery County Employment Security offices are listed as having professional, administrative or technical backgrounds -- the highest such percentage of any county in Maryland.

About 100 persons a month come to WREST for assistance. According to Hyman, most have degrees and about 20 percent hold advanced degrees.

During the initial session, the individual is encouraged to evaluate his or her experience and clarify career goals.

"We review skills that someone may have lost over the years," Hyman said.

Members are then taught the art of researching, letter and resume writing and conducting a comprehensive job search. They also meet with members of similar background and interest to map out career strategies.

Following this three-week orientation segment, members go about conducting job searches on their own, utilizing direct mail and phone marketing techniques -- with, hopefully, more confidence than they had previously.

A member will spend one day a week at WREST's offices making calls and writing letters to prospective employers. Members are expected to reciprocate by devoting one-third of their time to helping newer members.

In cooperation with area employers and agencies, WREST provides a bank of job vacancy announcements from which members can operate.

Although WREST does not act like a job placement service, it will refer qualified applicants to area employers.