Readers Speak Out On Maryland's Knowledge Economy

October 25, 2008

The Baltimore Sun's two-part, rigorously documented report on Maryland's emerging knowledge economy is exactly right in predicting that poorly educated high school graduates and dropouts will not be able to succeed in our state's new labor markets ("Sun special report: Shifting fortunes," Oct. 19-Oct. 20).

As Gov. Martin O'Malley notes in the article, poverty, illiteracy and poor academic and workplace skills are major barriers that will require thoughtful, cost-effective public investment.

Without such public investments, our federal, state and local governments will spend substantial additional funds on incarceration, drug treatment, child abuse services, increased law enforcement and other expenses.

The technology jobs described by reporters Stephen Kiehl and Jamie Smith Hopkins do, in fact, require specialized college and postsecondary education. At the same time, investing in developing "green jobs" can offer genuine opportunities to young adults and others who may not be academically stellar but can complete a corporate-funded training program.

Here's an example of how this process has worked in the past.

The nurse at my doctor's office completed an 11-month nurse's training program in 1979 at Harford Community College. For the past 29 years, she has worked as a nurse and paid taxes and enhanced the quality of health care for thousands of people.

Our next president and Congress need to focus on investments that strengthen our people and our nation.

Don Mathis, Havre de Grace

The writer is president and CEO of the Community Action Partnership.

The article "Falling short on training" (Oct. 20) hit the mark by highlighting the need to tie education and training to today's jobs.

Associated Black Charities believes the prosperity of older industrial cities is closely tied to the fate of their majority-minority populations, many of whom are poor, working-poor or struggling to stay in the middle class.

If the city can foster the development of its black middle class, this will improve the city's entire workforce, enhance our competitiveness and strengthen the nonprofit sector.

Customized and specialized training opportunities exist in health care and biotechnology. However, creating additional training certification programs through our community colleges would provide new opportunities for working adults to build their skills.

What the article makes clear is that neither one program nor one strategy will successfully meet the need, and that no significant additional financial investment in public sector anti-poverty programs is forthcoming.

Instead, we must recognize that we can be our own best hope - by working with partners including businesses, philanthropic organizations, city and state governments, nonprofit organizations and others to address key public policies that will help close the wealth gap.

Let's use "Falling short on training" as both a wake-up call and a call to action.

Diane Bell-McKoy, Baltimore

The writer is CEO of Associated Black Charities.

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