When Mike Buczkowski walked into work at Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group last Friday, he was given just about the worst news an employee can hear: He was being laid off.

Buczkowski was one of 1,200 Maryland Westinghouse workers who lost their jobs because of the Pentagon's cancellation of the contract for the A-12 Navy attack bomber. The timing was particularly tough; the defense industry and the Baltimore-Washington area are in the throes of recession.

But Westinghouse had a lot more to give Buczkowski than a pink slip.

He was handed a fat packet by the supervisor who had just told him about his layoff. Inside, Buczkowski found information on an extensive array of services: severance pay, continuing health coverage, unemployment benefits and a variety of job-counseling and placement programs. The first seminar, for all laid-off employees, is tomorrow.

"I don't hold any grudges," said Buczkowski, a drafting photographer who has a number of friends in the area who have lost jobs with other companies. "I haven't known anybody who extended this much service to people being laid off."

As the economy sinks further and further into recession, a number of companies laying off workers are turning to outplacement programs, which provide counseling and job-search services.

In the case of Westinghouse, the service also included full-page advertisements in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Annapolis Capital, newspapers in York, Pa., and community newspapers in Baltimore, inviting employers to get in touch.

"We don't want to see these dependable, loyal workers go without jobs -- they mean too much to us ... both as employees and human beings. Therefore, we recommend that your company look into the possibility of hiring some of these former Westinghouse employees," the advertisement said.

Immediately after the layoffs were announced Friday, Westinghouse activated a 24-hour hot line that employees could call to get information about benefits or job-seeking. The company also is providing a resource center in the Baltimore area at which former employees can learn resume-writing and interviewing skills, use word processors and facsimile machines to apply for jobs and scan job listings provided by the company.

Westinghouse will hold several job fairs in the Baltimore and Washington areas at which interested employers can talk to former Westinghouse employees. Financial planning also is available on request.

The Westinghouse program -- the Pittsburgh-based company has undertaken similar measures during layoffs in Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C. -- is somewhat more extensive than the norm, but experts say more and more companies are instituting outplacement services, in part because they protect the company.

"If 1,200 people are hitting the streets {without corporate assistance}, the company becomes known as one that does not favorably treat their employees. Then when things turn up and they start recruiting again, the employees are not likely to come back as readily," said Virginia M. Lord of the Philadelphia-based outplacement firm Right Associates.

Moreover, Lord said, such services can dissuade laid-off employees from suing the company on grounds they lost their job because of discrimination.

Westinghouse spokesman Jack Martin said the newspaper ads generated more than 100 calls yesterday from prospective employers. The ads will run again Sunday.

Buczkowski is not at all confident the outplacement program will find a job for him. But he is on the payroll until the end of the month, then gets five weeks' severance pay, and he plans to participate in all the company job programs. He said, "It's too early to tell if it's going to work, but it's there, so I'm going to take advantage of it."