Readers Respond

Job training one part of a broader, coordinated workforce system in Baltimore | READER COMMENTARY

Devin Carr, shown here in February 2020, enrolled in the Project JumpStart pre-apprenticeship training program to learn a trade after he finished serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Lorraine Mirabella’s March 10 article (“Job openings outpace the unemployed in Maryland and nationwide as workers and employers struggle to match up”) examines the mismatch between ample job opportunities and the workers seeking to fill them. The result is a labor shortage. She correctly notes that occupational training programs like Project JumpStart and BetterU are key to righting the mismatch.

What bears noting, though, is that these programs are part of a broader network of occupational training programs available in Baltimore right now.


Offered by nonprofits and community colleges, these programs provide a viable career pathway to a range of Baltimoreans: young adults who may not want to go to college, older adults looking for a new opportunity, and residents with a criminal record. The training is “sector-based,” tailored to the specific needs of employers in high-demand fields. Trainees receive industry-recognized credentials, soft and hard skills training, and job placement assistance in Baltimore’s growing industries: biotechnology, health care, information technology, construction and manufacturing. This means good jobs for residents who might otherwise struggle to make ends meet and a skilled workforce for Baltimore’s businesses.

In turn, this network of training programs is part of a coordinated workforce system that the Baltimore Workforce Development Board, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, and its public and private partners have developed. The effort began with the One Baltimore for Jobs demonstration, which offered sectoral training to young adults in distressed neighborhoods in response to the unrest following Freddie Gray’s death in 2015. Training was combined with support services to help remove barriers that might get in the way of residents getting or keeping a job.


The model was then applied to Grads2Careers, a systems-building program established to provide job training and career options to high school seniors not planning to go to college. This coordinated workforce network has grown to include providers of adult literacy education, financial empowerment counseling, legal services, mental health counseling, and transportation assistance. Secondary and post-secondary educational institutions and private foundations are also integral system partners.

The coordinated network is currently bolstered by a historic $30 million investment in workforce programs by Mayor Brandon Scott through the American Rescue Plan Act, with offerings that include occupational training, subsidized employment, wage subsidies for small, minority- and women-owned businesses, and mobile career navigators who bring workforce services to all corners of the city. In the coming year, career counselors funded by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future will begin working with middle and high school students to help them learn about jobs that might suit their skills and dreams.

The U.S. economy currently faces labor shortages across the board — from welders to nurses, police officers, teachers, and construction workers. With the U.S. working population expected to grow only modestly over the coming decades, these shortages may not abate. Baltimore has developed a blueprint to mitigate the mismatch problem, and we will continue to nurture our coordinated system to address future economic challenges and to ensure that all our residents have an opportunity for financial stability and a hopeful future.

— MacKenzie Garvin and Rachel Brash, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, acting director and senior policy analyst at the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development.