The College of Southern Maryland announced earlier this month that CSM leadership has convened Southern Maryland economic development specialists and numerous regional businesses to identify the tri-county region as a certified ACT Work Ready Community. This practice demonstrates CSM’s commitment to developing a strong workforce pipeline, desirable to employers, economic developers and current and future citizens of the region.
The ACT Work Ready Communities initiative empowers states, regions and counties with data, processes and tools that drive economic growth by identifying skills gaps and quantifying the skill level of their workforce. Participants leverage the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate to measure and close skills gaps and build common frameworks that link, align and match their workforce development efforts.
“CSM will not only offer the WorkKeys curriculum that has been designated by our business champions as a necessity, we will now also serve as a recognized ACT WorkKeys NCRC testing site,” explained CSM Continuing Education and Workforce Development Associate Vice President Ellen Flowers-Fields. “Our work in bringing this designation to our region is one more example of how CSM serves as an economic engine in Southern Maryland and demonstrates our commitment to improve our students’ skills and wages.”
To begin the Work Ready Communities process, CSM Continuing Education and Workforce Development leaders attended the ACT Work Ready Communities Boot Camp, an executive leadership and training program designed and led by ACT to initiate, deploy, and drive carefully tailored efforts to improve the county’s work readiness. Leaders met with local employers, policymakers, educators and economic developers to reach established goals and build a sustainable WRC model to fit community needs.
A key stakeholder in this effort was the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, which collaborated with CSM at the onset of the pandemic to launch “Getting Southern Maryland Back to Work.” The effort aligns the federal, state and local investments designed to provide access to industry recognized trainings and certifications leading to high demand and high wage occupations.
The alignment of these resources provided targeted responses to critical needs, including the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate, to maximize the regional impact and preparing for a future in which the workforce is being redefined.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, job readiness was the key challenge facing businesses seeking talent,” Ruthy Davis, director of Regional Workforce and Business Development for TCCSMD, said. “Post-pandemic recovery will bring even greater challenges on the talent availability front. This new reality illustrates the value of the ACT Work-Ready Communities initiative.”
“Site selectors and major corporations identify available workforce as a key consideration when choosing a business location, and we emphasize available, skilled workforce in our outreach efforts,” said Charles County Deputy County Administrator and Acting EDD Director Deborah Hall. “The ACT Work Ready Certification will allow us to demonstrate that our workforce has the skills employers need and that the community is united in maintaining a program to support business growth with a pipeline of job candidates with nationally certified skills.”
Calvert County Director of Economic Development Kelly Robertson-Slagle agreed.
“Having an available, skilled workforce is the top priority for current companies doing business in Southern Maryland or those considering a move here,” Robertson-Slagle said. “This certification signals we as a community understand what skills employers are looking for, and that we are working with our education, business leaders and workforce development partners to meet those demands.”
Included among the area business champions are Modern Door, Patuxent Brewing Co., Balancelogic, Datjerk Caribbean Chargrill and MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.
“Balancelogic is proud and excited to be part of the Act Work Ready Community program,” said Balancelogic Chief Executive Officer Bill Campbell. “This program will bring tremendous value to our local economic workforce development effort and help close the gap between our workforce and our local businesses, resulting in a well-prepared workforce and well-staffed businesses. This in turn, will make our region an attractive to place for businesses to start and grow as well as for a place for other businesses to relocate, a winning combination for any community.”
Flowers-Fields said the initiative will also do extensive outreach to 18-26 year olds who are already in the workforce as well as high school completers, current high school students and incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals seeking work.
“Congratulations to CSM and the Southern Maryland region for joining this initiative, and a growing list of counties dedicated to building a robust workforce,” said ACT Regional Manager Cheri Tune. “The determination of Southern Maryland’s leadership to engage in this process demonstrates active partnerships between all stakeholders in the community and will provide the county with an economic development advantage, helping them stand out nationally for their workforce development efforts.”
For more information on this initiative, and how to participate in Southern Maryland, visit www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/non-credit/workforce-training/work-ready-community.html or visit www.workreadycommunities.org and view all of ACT’s workforce solutions at www.act.org/workforce.