Laurel is home to state's first regional workforce center

Laurel's central location between four major jurisdictions makes it an ideal place for the state's first regional workforce center, where people can go to find job training, employment connections and host of other services.

"I'm very happy that they recognized the city of Laurel is the place to be," Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said Thursday at the grand opening of the Laurel Regional Workforce Center.

The center offers training and assistance in applying for jobs for both the unemployed and the employed seeking new opportunities. It also works with employers to connect them with job seekers that would fit their needs.

Jane Oates, assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration under the federal Department of Labor, attended the grand opening to commend Maryland on taking a regional approach to workforce training.

"We know in this greater metropolitan area people travel for jobs and employers don't look just next door for employees," she said. "Now is the time to innovate. Now is the time to do things differently."

The center, located on the sixth floor of 312 Marshall Ave., has been open for a few months, but Thursday was when elected officials gathered to give remarks and cut the ribbon in celebration of the opening.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III, a Democrat; Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat; and Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, a Republican, all spoke at the event.

"The problem is not that there aren't any job openings," Leopold said. "The problem is finding the skill sets to meet those jobs."

He noted that the training the center will offer is critical to connecting people with jobs and employers with employees.

Baker commented on the importance of regionalism and reaching across borders to accomplish goals.

"If we're going to expand the economy in these trying times, we need to work together," he said.

Added Ulman: "When counties work together, there's really nothing we can't achieve."

Though the center was located in Laurel to target employees and employers in Prince George's, Howard, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties, anyone from the state is welcome to come in for help.

"We're breaking down the silos because the economy and the workforce does not know political boundaries, and it shouldn't," Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Interim Secretary Scott Jensen said.

Hours of operation for the center are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.

The center is staffed by about a dozen state employees and about a dozen employees from the nearby counties.

In Jensen's department, workforce centers in various counties throughout the state are called "One-Stop Career Centers" because of the wide range of assistance they provide to job seekers — from job training and counseling to help acquiring unemployment insurance.

"There are a lot of one-stops in the state but this is the first regional one," he said.

Each center, including the new regional center in Laurel, provides job seekers with access to computers, phones, photocopiers and fax machines.

The costs for services provided at the center vary, but they are "often free," Jensen said, noting federal funding subsidizes many of the training opportunities offered at the center.

Though the center's focus is on increasing employment opportunities for Maryland residents, Jensen said it is also important to fostering economic development.

"We want to give businesses the kind of folks we need so they can come to Maryland, stay in Maryland and expand in Maryland," he said.

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