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Center Helps Employees Focus on Next Jobs

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

KELLY AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Dec. 11, 1996 – Loyalty is a twoway street at the air logistics center here, according to Col. Pete Hennessey.

"We have a lot of responsibility for this work force. They have been loyal to the organization, and we are trying to do right by them," he said.

As director of C5 aircraft depot maintenance here, Hennessey must supervise the demise of his organization. Along with the Defense Logistics Agency activities, the air logistics center will close as part of a base realignment and closure commission decision to close or realign all Kelly units by July 13, 2001.

Bids will go out shortly, and by next summer, a contract will be awarded for C5 maintenance. If a private sector company wins the contract, the work most likely will remain at Kelly, and most of the current work force members will be hired to perform their old jobs under new management. However, if a public or military depot wins the contract, the workload will leave Kelly, and most of the workers will face finding new jobs, officials said.

Whatever the outcome, all 19,000 Kelly civilian employees face an uncertain future, officials said. A reduction in force scheduled for March 1998 will force some workers out of jobs and others into new jobs.

To reduce trauma to its employees many of whose family members have worked here for generations Kelly organized a job counseling and assistance service. A $14.5 million Defense Diversification Program grant awarded by the Department of Labor and Texas Workforce Commission provides funds for Kelly workers to receive counseling and training and to attend college and trade school.

Grant funds cover education and retraining services for all nonmanagerial Kelly workers whose jobs will disappear as a result of realignment and privatization. In addition, the fund covers:

  • Continuing education to improve current skills and knowledge;
  • Degrees or certificates in highdemand occupations;
  • Skills training for jobs in highdemand occupations;
  • Job search assistance;
  • Career counseling;
  • Referral training; and
  • Small business workshops.

The Alamo Workforce Development Council administers the fund from a centrally located office and five satellite offices around the base. The main office provides 11 computer work stations and software for workers to prepare employment applications and resumes or access the Internet to research various job banks. Each employee gets a computer disk to maintain and update personal information.

Kelly workers can draw tuition assistance as well as funds to pay for books, lab fees and supplies, according to SuWanna Cunningham, coordinator of reemployment services. The center also offers introductory classes and services to help workers prepare for collegelevel work, she said.

"We are an employment and retraining office with employment being our main focus," Cunningham said. "Many of these people have worked here a long time and not had to look for jobs, so they're not familiar with labor market trends. We can show them what jobs are in demand, what jobs pay the most, what's emerging and what's declining.

"Our goal is for every employee who uses our services to have a job at the end."

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