When Piedmont Airlines was looking in 1981 for a battery of reservation clerks to staff some Dulles International Airport flight operations, the carrier contacted a group called the Northern Virginia Manpower Consortium.

The consortium responded by recruiting and screening 300 Northern Virginia residents, who were then referred to Piedmont. The contract was typical in nature for the three-year-old, publicly funded employment program that matches workers with employers.

The consortium has a success rate worth mentioning: Of the 1,800 clients in the program in fiscal year 1982, 73 percent got jobs, according to spokeswoman Claudia Kravets.

Suzanne Manzo, NVMC executive director, said the consortium's responsibility is to "supply informational guidance and support that will shorten the time and reduce the effort it takes to get people into jobs" and to bring "area employers and unemployed residents together in ways that serve the interests of both."

Under the program, a client begins with a two-week training session that includes employment assessment, aptitude testing, the teaching of job search skills and job retention skills.

The training session is followed by a weekly series of skills-development workshops. The candidate then receives training in occupational skills in the appropriate career field.

On-the-job-training is also available. The consortium will reimburse an employer for as much as 50 percent of salary costs during initial employment to offset extra supervisory time. In addition, the program supports and supervises temporary employment in the public sector.

For the employer, the program offers a free pool of entry-level applicants who are screened for their skills. An employer can reduce job advertising costs and save time and money spent on interviewing and training.

The consortium is administered by the Fairfax County Department of Manpower Services. It serves Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Fairfax City and Falls Church. It serves unemployed or underemployed residents, as well as workers who have been displaced or laid off for twenty weeks or more, or laid off as a result of a permanent business closing.

The program is funded by several federal and local government agencies. Local employers and business or technical schools who provide training classes are not reimbursed in full until the students gain the employment they are seeking, an attempt to make the program "accountable at every stage," said Kravets.

Some workers served by the consortium are assisted under existing government programs for which they are eligible, such as the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) or the Virginia Refugee Assistance Program.

The consortium's advisory board--the Northern Virginia Private Industry Council--is composed of appointed representatives from local business, organized labor, state agencies and community organizations. These include Geodynamics Corp., Sperry Univac Corp., the AFL-CIO, Northern Virginia Family Services, Fairfax County Public Schools and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Training sessions and classes are held at the Willston School in Falls Church and several other locations.