During times like this, when economic growth nationally continues to move at a slower pace than is desirable, one of the most essential jobs of any level of government is to support job creation. Here in Maryland, we have been lucky in that our economy did not fall as much as that of other states as a consequence of the Great Recession. Moreover, we have also experienced a somewhat more rapid recovery than other areas as well. These favorable trends do not however mean that our policymakers can leave future job creation efforts to chance.
Positively, Perry Hall's own State Senator Kathy Klausmeier is on the forefront of action with regard to mobilizing resources in support of entrepreneurship and accompanying business and employment growth. In concert with Delegate John Olszewski, Jr. (a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from the 6th district), Klausmeier is the lead Senate champion for Senate Bill 278.
This legislation, along with its House companion HB 227, would create an initiative known as the Maryland Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program. The Maryland EARN Program would be administered by the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and is designed to facilitate the creation of industry-led partnerships that would respond to the employment needs of businesses across our state. These partnerships would help to advance the skills of Maryland's workforce, grow its economy, and increase sustainable employment for working families.
On an annual basis, the legislation would allocate a minimum of $2.5 million for the issuance of competitive grants to the aforementioned industry-led partnerships. Sensibly enough, these partnerships would include employers, nonprofits, institutions of higher education, community colleges, local workforce investment boards, local governments, and other relevant partners.
These grants would support programs that would allow participants to receive access to effective academic and employment training necessary in order to obtain quality job opportunities. Specifically, partnerships that are awarded grant funds would have the resources to be able to create:
- "workforce training programs and other qualified programs that provide industry-valued skills training to individuals that results in a credential or identifiable skill consistent with an approved strategic industry partnership plan; and
- job-readiness training and skills training that results in a credential or an identifiable skill."
The need for a highly educated, highly skilled cadre of workers is more pressing than ever. The following statistics puts this need into perspective: nationally, between 2000 and 2015, at least 85 percent of newly created jobs will require education and/or training beyond a high school diploma. Here in Maryland, current middle and high skilled jobs make up the largest portion of current work opportunities—about 65 percent—with a diminished need for lower skilled workers, at about 35 percent.
I believe that this legislation offers an appropriate framework for the promotion of career-focused education and training programs. Those who are presently unemployed or under-employed will need defined skill sets to successfully compete for the jobs of the future. To his credit, Governor Martin O'Malley agreed with the merit of this approach, and worked together with Senator Klausmeier and Delegate Olszewski to craft the specifics of the Maryland EARN legislation. A program like this would go a long way to ensuring the future competitiveness of Maryland's workforce.