Montgomery County government officials, who have aggressively courted high technology, "smokeless" industries to locate there, yesterday joined with those industry heads to announce the creation of a corporation to retrain workers for jobs in those fields.
The new nonprofit Corporation for Technological Training (CTT), unveiled by County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, is a public/private venture with a $340,000 first-year budget aimed primarily at the unemployed.
As a beginning, CTT will begin immediately what it calls a pre-technical education program that will teach math and reading skills to an initial class of 25 county residents.
Among the jobs that workers will be trained for are cable linemen and installers to help build the county's new cable television system. CTT will begin training 50 linemen by fall, and the cable firm, Tribune United of Montgomery County, will help fund the nonprofit corporation.
The corporation puts Montgomery, whose 4 percent unemployment rate is well below the national and state averages, at the forefront of the announced statewide rush to retool the workforce. Gov. Harry Hughes and House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin both announced major efforts to help retrain the state's unemployed workers, but the General Assembly has not acted on any specific programs.
The American economy is shifting from a labor-intensive emphasis on heavy industry to a more computerized, highly technical society requiring more sophisticated worker skills. Gilchrist said that shift "has caused worker dislocation throughout the country, and high levels of unemployment," a problem that industries, schools and government "are just beginning to recognize."
"Initially, what we're targeting are the economically disadvantaged and the unemployed," said newly appointed CTT board chairman William Kaht, a vice president for Digital Communications Corp. As an example of the need for retraining, Kaht said his firm has about 50 openings, but all of them require workers with specific technical skills. Industries must now often look outside the county, or hire from each other, to fill those technical positions.
County firms participating in CTT will publicize available jobs, and CTT will train workers to match the openings.
The corporation will also move to retrain women wishing to enter these fields, Kaht said, as well as public high school and Montgomery College students hoping to enter the field of high technology.