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Lift Baltimore by prioritizing digital skills, transportation

Baltimore has the potential to emerge as one of the most dynamic innovation hubs in the country, if we can take some important steps for growth. Our city is home to people with incredible drive and talent. And we have strong institutions, from colleges and universities to federal agencies, hospitals and businesses of all sizes.

We also face deep-rooted challenges, including troubling economic inequalities. But there are immediate steps that we can take together to create a stronger economic foundation that lifts up people and neighborhoods throughout our city and across our region.

Taking a broader, regional approach can bring together the resources and partnerships that can help lift up Baltimore. In particular, we believe developing residents’ digital skills will be critical.

The country and our region are changing at a rapid pace, and those changes impact the skills people need to be prepared for available and emerging jobs. For example, the Capital Region (Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond and surrounding areas) is the nation’s most dense high-tech corridor outside of Silicon Valley, but we lack enough skilled tech workers to keep up with regional demand. And no individual educational institution or business can train all the people needed for those roles. We must work together.

The work of the Greater Washington Partnership can help us get there. This group includes leaders of the largest employers from the Capital Region, and we are proud to be a part of the partnership’s Capital CoLAB — the Collaborative of Leaders in Academia and Business. This group is founded on the principle that we need to develop and broaden our local talent pool at scale to build our region’s economic ecosystem.

Together with companies like Northrop Grumman, Under Armour, JPMorgan Chase, Amazon and others, the CoLAB has already identified skill areas that help people be successful in today’s workforce. The CoLAB has created digital technology credentials to supplement undergraduate degrees with knowledge and skills people need to compete in today’s economy. This work also creates a broader talent pipeline for employers in the region.

Maryland’s Cyber Warrior Diversity Program is another example of how partnerships can move this work forward. This program — approved by the Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018 — enables Maryland’s HBCUs and Baltimore City Community College to offer initial cybersecurity certifications. UMBC Training Centers then provide students with additional levels of cybersecurity certification, to make them even more competitive in the workforce.

By increasing access to opportunity, especially in underserved Baltimore neighborhoods, we can help to grow and retain a stronger workforce and strengthen Baltimore communities. That’s why the Greater Washington Partnership is working directly with Baltimore City Public Schools and community college partners to design pathways that connect students to postsecondary degrees, certifications and work.

Beyond digital skills, we see so many other areas for regional growth. For example, our outdated transportation system causes congestion and delays and limits access to our rich cultural assets. People without vehicles are disadvantaged in their ability to access schools, jobs and greater economic opportunities. The failures of our transportation system are literally cutting Baltimore and its people off from the rest of the region and the opportunity to secure the good jobs we’re helping to create.

We need to take direct action to address this issue, and the Greater Washington Partnership’s Blueprint for Regional Mobility is a great place to start. This comprehensive transportation strategy outlines clear actions that we can take together to improve commutes, increase options and provide better access.

By working with the business community, civic leaders and public officials to improve regional transportation, we can help ensure that everyone can access quality jobs and that our region can attract and retain workers.

We look forward to the partnership meeting in Baltimore this month as a chance to think about how Baltimore’s integration into our broader region can help boost economic opportunity for all. If we act with urgency and align our regional priorities, we can create economic opportunity for more people here in Baltimore. We can also provide a roadmap for other regions that share our challenges and our commitment to inclusive growth.

Freeman A. Hrabowski III (hrabowski@umbc.edu) is the president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Ronald J. Daniels (president@jhu.edu) is the president of The Johns Hopkins University and board member of the Greater Washington Partnership. JHU and UMBC are members of the Capital CoLAB.

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