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Putting Baltimore to work

The Baltimore Sun editorial board's recent focus on the issue of local hiring ("Jobs for City Residents" January 9) is appreciated as increasing job opportunities for city residents is the central focus of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development (MOED). Under the leadership of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, our agency engages the local business community and promotes local hiring to support the mayor's goal of growing Baltimore by 10,000 families over the next decade. However, none of these initiatives to promote local hiring in partnership with Baltimore's business community were recognized in the editorial.

Among those initiatives for which MOED is responsible is implementing the workforce development activities as required by the mayor's Employ Baltimore executive order. Signed by Mayor Rawlings-Blake in June 2011, the order requires nearly all contractors that receive city-awarded contracts of $50,000 or more to submit all job openings created by the awarded contracts to MOED so that they may be posted exclusively to local residents through Baltimore City's one-stop career center network prior to being advertised to the general public. This gives MOED an exclusive opportunity to identify and prepare qualified city residents to be first in line to fill new jobs.

In addition, the executive order requires contractors to schedule an appointment with MOED to review their workforce needs, assess their workforce plan and determine how many jobs will be required to complete the project, how many will require new hiring and what skills these jobs will demand. This not only improves the chances of increased local hiring, it also benefits the businesses by providing no-cost pre-screening services that result in supplying qualified job candidates. Finally, all contractors are required to submit a workforce report indicating the number of city residents on its payroll. Through October 2012, MOED has received employment reports indicating of the 3,073 workers on these contracts, 1,230 (40 percent) are city residents. MOED is committed to continuing to build on the Employ Baltimore initiative going forward. More information is available here.

The mayor's executive order is just one of many initiatives underway to increase job readiness and job opportunities for city residents. Just two months ago, Mayor Rawlings-Blake announced the opening of four new community job hubs. Operated by MOED, in partnership with community groups that have established a trusted presence in select neighborhoods with high unemployment, the community job hubs supplement services offered at the city's three one-stop career centers by offering no-cost job readiness computer classes, taught by professional technology trainers. The community job hubs provide access to academic resources, customized skills training, employer recruitment events, job alerts and job fairs. Residents learn to complete online job applications, expand job search techniques and create winning resumes for 21st-century jobs. More information on community job hubs is available here.

Helping to drive all of MOED's initiatives to build a strong workforce is the Baltimore Workforce Investment Board (BWIB), a mayorally-appointed body comprised of leading local employers, educators and stakeholders from community and faith-based organizations, foundations and philanthropic organizations. The BWIB's strength and presence in the city's business community provides that MOED's services are business-driven and provide for effective integration to meet businesses' needs and prepare Baltimore City's job seekers for high-demand occupations in the industries that drive our local economy. Last year MOED's Business Services Division assisted more than 450 local businesses meet their workforce needs through its broad menu of workforce tools and assistance.

Finally, despite significant budget challenges, Mayor Rawlings-Blake and MOED have worked hard to expand Baltimore's nationally recognized Youth Works summer jobs program to increase the number of direct hires by Baltimore businesses through its Hire One Youth campaign. YouthWorks annually provides more than 5,000 employment opportunities to Baltimore City's young people ages 14 to 21, resulting in more than 15,000 six-week summer work experiences throughout the city since Feb. 2010. Last summer, nearly 300 additional jobs were provided by 81 Hire One Youth employers, and MOED is gearing up in 2013 to double the number of engaged employers. Any business interested in supporting YouthWorks or joining the Mayor's Hire One Youth campaign, should call 410-396-JOBS (5627) or sign up online.

Preparing Baltimore's workforce to be successfully employed remains MOED's primary goal. Residents are encouraged to visit our one-stop career centers and the Community Job Hubs to learn more about opportunities to develop necessary skills, expand their job search techniques, and build sustainable careers.

Karen Sitnick, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development.

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