Job training, even in a "jobless" recovery

August 23, 2010

Finally, job training is in the headlines. And it is being lauded and maligned. The federal government has devoted millions to training grants and other training activities. But why invest scarce public funds in job training when there are no jobs?

Let's get the facts straight. Training doesn't create jobs, but it does position individuals and communities for economic recovery, especially when a person is retrained for a new job with new skills.

When training is tied to current and future employment needs, that training prepares workers with the skills that will equip them to be successful in their job search. Despite today's high unemployment rate, a recent national study found 51 percent of companies reporting a shortage of skilled production workers – jobs they would fill right now if they could find the trained workforce. Well-designed job training programs developed in collaboration with specific industries have demonstrated positive outcomes time and again.

Although Maryland has been growing jobs at twice the rate of the rest of the country, we all know people and communities who have been left behind, despite more than 40,000 new jobs since January. Those people need training in emerging industries, so they will be ready when jobs become available again.

Maryland is ahead of the curve. The local workforce investment board partnered with the state to win a $5.8 million green job-training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Beginning this fall, more than 2,000 Marylanders will begin training for green jobs in manufacturing, construction, environment technology and solar energy – industries that are expected to grow once the economy gets back on track. Baltimore County is the lead partner for green training in the manufacturing sector.

Once the economy turns around, Maryland and Baltimore County will be ready with skilled workers, thanks to our state's workforce investment system. An investment in smart worker training is an investment in a brighter future.

Barry F. Williams, Mark D. Habicht

The writers are, respectively, director of Baltimore County's workforce development office and chairman of its workforce development council

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