Irene Lewis and Edna Dames share a job in the office of Sen. Ted Stevens (D'Alaska). Lewis was ready to retire but was urged by Stevens to find a partner and continue working part-time. Dames, a retiree with a long government career, now shares the workload with Lewis. One of the women works two days a week, and the other works three days, with their vacations prorated. For Lewis and Dames, the situation is nearly ideal; it allows both to have flexible schedules and to continue work they both enjoy.

For workers like Irene Lewis and Edna Dames, the concept of job sharing - where two persons share a full-time position - has meant a way to remain in the work force.

And two Virginia women have decided to make the search for jobs that can be shared into a full-time business.

The women - Judge Hodges, of Arlington, and Carol Park, of McLean - founded Job Sharers, a resource service center, early this year. The purpose is to promote permanent part-time careers.

Hodges and Parker started Job Sharers as part of their own search for shared work.

After encountering many other persons in similar situations, they concluded that a resource center, matching employers willing to restruture full-time jobs into shared positions with qualified applicants, would fill a definite need.

The women began contacting employers in the metropolitan area.

"We spoke to various government agency heads," Hodges said, "expecting about a 2 percent response. We found to our surprise that about 75 percent were open to a divided work shift."

Response by employers in the private sector also was favorable. "Their main concerns were communication, continuity and costs," Hodges said. "An efficient team can easily devise a system for handling the first two, and the negligible additional cost is more than offset by the improved output of two individuals.

"There was one drawback," she admits. "They said, 'Sure, send us two receptionists, two file clerks, two salespersons,' jobs of that sort. The problem is, most persons enrolled in Job Sharers are over-qualified for those slots. As more people hear about the program and our talent bank expands, we will have a wider range of possibilities."

Early this year, Hodges and Parker began a series of seminars for persons interested in shared work. Each seminar includes three workships, and participants can attend as many seminars as they want for a one-time fee of $40.

The seminars include a list of prospective employers and the essentials of job-sharing. Hodges and Parker review the how-to's of applying for jobs, joint resumes, job sharing interviews, Social Security and tax considerations and prorating salaries and fringe benefits.

Participants are trained in the skills and knowledge necessary for finding or creating shared jobs. They also are matched, according to ability and experience, with a compatible partner.

"Since they will work together as a team, we emphasize that the key word is communication," Parker says. "Each must understand the other's home situation that gives rise to the need for limited hours in the first place."

While the two women stress that Job Sharers is not an employment agency, they frequently talk with an employer before applicants actually go for an interview. "I opens the door so to speak, and relieves a team of going in cold," Parker said, "if we talk to the employer first and deal with his questions and concerns about the concept."

Fifty persons have enrolled in Job Sharers thus far, and although not all of them have found jobs yet, they are undaunted. The crucial aspect - discovering a compatible partner - requires time, they say.

Two who did form a successful team are Mary Grace and Gary Simms, of the District, who are sharing a supervisor's job in the administrative office of Children's Hospital in the District. Together they work a total of 48 hours a week.

Severy impressed with caliber of those attending. They wearker held.

"Apparently, being in the minority must have frightened them away," Hodges said. "We hope as the idea becomes more familiar that men will enroll because there is definitely a place for them."

One point, both women feel, should be made clear. Participants Job Sharing may have to start at the ground floor, as in any other job, before moving to a better position. "We urge them to be realistic and confront the fact that while a part-time job at career level is what they aspire to, they will first have to prove that job sharing works."

Rona Hitlin, for five years an administrative assistant for the American Political Science Association, attended some of the early job sharing workshops. Hitlin, who temporarily left the work force to care for her small son said she decided to consider resuming a part-time career after hearing about job sharing.

"At the first job sharing workshop I was very impressecd with caliber of those attending. They were exceedingly talented persons with high-level goals, who wished to continue using their skills, but for varying reasons, could only work part-time. By combining qualifications, they were able to prepare very eye-catching, persuasive resumes."

Hitlin now works 20 hours a week as research accountant for the Joint Commission on Criminology and Criminal Justice Education and Standards.

Since the job was advertised as a part-time position and did not require a partner, Hitlin did not get to test job sharing. Nevertheless, she strongly supports the principle.

"There is a lot of untapped talent out there," she maintains.

Job Sharers workshops will be held at the Fairfax YWCA, 8101 Wolf Trap Road, Vienna, on Sept. 20, Sept. 27 and Oct. 4, and at the River Road Unitarian Church, 6301 River Road, Bethesda, Sept. 19, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. Hours for the workshops are 10 a.m. to noon.