Baltimore County wants to "connect" people to in-demand jobs | WYPR

Baltimore County wants to "connect" people to in-demand jobs

Feb 19, 2018

MTA bus bringing people to jobs at Sparrows Point.
Credit John Lee

MTA bus 63 pulls up to Tradepoint Atlantic at Sparrows Point in Southeast Baltimore County. This route’s only been running for a couple of weeks and there are no passengers on Angela Davis’s bus. But Davis expects that to change.

“It’s cool that the buses are coming down here to the jobs so people can get to work,” Davis said.




The jobs Davis is talking about are part of Tradepoint Atlantic’s redevelopment of the Point, once home to Bethlehem Steel. Aaron Tomarchio, Tradepoint’s Senior Vice President of Administration and Corporate Affairs, said there are around 800 jobs at Sparrows Point now. But Tomarchio expects that number to quadruple within a year. He said they will need people trained in transportation, distribution, light manufacturing and in loading and unloading ships.


“You can train a wonderful workforce,” Tomarchio said. “But if you are not placing them in jobs, you’re not really fulfilling the mission of workforce development.”


So the county is starting a program called Job Connector to train people for work in high-demand fields. Officials say this will flip the script when it comes to helping people find jobs. Employers will tell the county what jobs they have available, and let that drive the training.


Anna Maria Palmer, the Chief Human Resources Officer for GBMC, said currently the federal money the county uses for job training stipulates that the person looking for a job will request the training that he wants.


“And while that’s good, the job seeker may not desire training in a field where there are lots of jobs,” Palmer said.


Officials predict nine industries will drive 75 percent of Baltimore County’s job market in the years ahead. Health care tops that list.


“We’re constantly needing to hire more hospice nurses, more medical assistants, more bedside nurses or home health nurses,” Palmer said.


So Job Connector will use $2.5 million in county money to train people in hot jobs and hook them up with employers.


Job Connector is not yet in place. But Carl Miller’s story is an example of how the program will work.


Miller is 64. He got laid off last January from his IT job at Johns Hopkins University. He’d worked there for 22 years.


“I worked on repairing computers, peripherals, I helped set up networks, I helped to support people. I did all kinds of stuff,” Miller said.


After he lost his job, Miller went to the county’s job center on Eastern Avenue at Eastpoint. There a counselor said he should consider cyber security because there are a lot of jobs available. He got Miller signed up for a class he could take for free at Towson University. Miller hopes to be fully certified to work in cyber security by this summer.


Miller said, “You get laid off. And it’s kind of doom and gloom for awhile. But this came along at just the right time. And it offered an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I couldn’t believe it.”


Will Anderson, Baltimore County’s Director of Economic and Workforce Development, said 25,000 people came to the county’s job centers last year looking for work.


“So we have the capacity at both ends,” Anderson said. “People who need help and companies that are looking to hire.”


Anderson said the Job Connector proposal will go before the county council next month.