LINTHICUM, Md. -- Shop and restaurant workers at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport will get free classes on technical training, English as well as financial and career skills under a partnership between with several Anne Arundel County groups.
The Workplace Development Program brings together Airmall Maryland with Anne Arundel Workforce Development, Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., Anne Arundel Community College and the Maryland Small Business & Technology Development Center.
"We're really excited about this," said Brett Kelly, vice president of Airmall Maryland. "I don't know of any other airport that's doing this type of thing in the same way."
Airmall, which already offers standardized customer service training, contacted the county organizations last year to expand programs available to employees, Kelly said.
The Center for Workforce Solutions at the college kicked off the program with training in the ServSafe food safety program and an English as a second language course.
"They were able to make their work lives a little more comfortable and make them more confident in their jobs," Kelly said. "And in terms of the employers themselves the feedback has been great, particularly with ServSafe."
The programs are available to 1,500 concession employees, up from 500 jobs at BWI in 2012.
"More positions mean more competition for good workers and competition for workers is good for workers," Kelly said. "We are committed to cultivating current tenants and we see this as an opportunity to do it."
Kelly said the program is not a response to efforts to unionize concession workers by Unite Here Local 7. The company maintains it cannot address the union's requests because employees work for individual tenants that lease space from Airmall under a long term contract with the state.
"It is important to point out that Airmall doesn't employ any of the concession workers," Kelly said. "Airmall doesn't set wages for concession locations within the program."
Roxie Herbekian, president of Local 7, was unaware of the program until she was provided with a copy of the news release sent out by Airmall. She said it does not address the concerns of the workers.
"Instead of offering personal finance classes, why won't Airmall respond to issues that concessions employees have indicated they themselves would change, such as respect at work, job security and fair wages?" Herbekian said.
In addition to the training, Airmall has worked with Health Care Access Maryland to help concession workers sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act before the March 31 deadline. Navigators have been meeting with workers one on one to help them enroll.
On Jan. 24, navigators met with 12 people, including a concession manager who has 70 employees, said William Matthews, certified navigator team leader for Anne Arundel County.
"It will allow them to have the opportunity to enroll face to face with a navigator and have our expertise and knowledge at a place of convenience for them," he said.
Some of the organizations involved will provide services for businesses at the airport. Workforce Development will cultivate and train job applicants with Airmall tenants for specific concession job openings. The Small Business & Technology Development Center will work with potential tenants to develop a business plan, marketing plan, growth strategy and financing plan. And Economic Development Corp. will assist qualified local businesses in securing capital, including small business loans and financing options, for expansion into the airport's concessions program.
A GED prep will be the next component of the program launched by Anne Arundel Community College.
Airmall also will launch its a Lunch & Learn program that will bring in speakers from across Maryland to talk to concessions employees. Topics will include personal finance, college enrollment and tuition resources, home buying tips, women's health and work-life balance.
"Anyone interested can come and listen, and lunch is on me," Kelly said.