Strengthening Baltimore’s Workforce System

Posted March 28, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Baltimore workforce development

Con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty, per­sis­tent racial seg­re­ga­tion and dis­crim­i­na­to­ry hir­ing, hous­ing and edu­ca­tion prac­tices have con­tributed to high­er unem­ploy­ment rates in Bal­ti­more City com­pared to the rest of Mary­land — espe­cial­ly among African Amer­i­cans res­i­dents, who are near­ly four times more like­ly to be unem­ployed than their white counterparts.

Deter­mined to reverse this trend, a group of pub­lic and pri­vate enti­ties — known col­lec­tive­ly as the Prac­tice Advi­so­ry — came togeth­er in 2019 to strength­en Baltimore’s work­force sys­tem and ensure that all city res­i­dents can access the skill-build­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and sup­port need­ed to secure well-pay­ing jobs. The col­lab­o­ra­tive, fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, includes Civic Works, the Depart­ment of Social Ser­vices, the Job Oppor­tu­ni­ties Task Force, Jane Addams Resource Cor­po­ra­tion Bal­ti­more, Asso­ci­at­ed Black Char­i­ties and Bön Sec­ours Com­mu­ni­ty Works.

Increas­ing Employment

The Prac­tice Advi­so­ry ini­tial­ly began as part of One Bal­ti­more for Jobs, a two-and-a-half-year pilot ini­tia­tive admin­is­tered by the Mayor’s Office of Employ­ment Devel­op­ment (MOED). The ini­tia­tive brought togeth­er state and local agen­cies, work­force ser­vice providers and com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions to help address employ­ment bar­ri­ers, such as crim­i­nal records and out­stand­ing child-sup­port debt — while also pro­vid­ing free access to high-qual­i­ty skills train­ing to help place res­i­dents in jobs. Eager to build on their suc­cess­es, mem­bers of the ear­ly Prac­tice Advi­so­ry decid­ed to relaunch the group two years after the pilot’s con­clu­sion in 2017

The Mayor’s Office of Employ­ment Devel­op­ment was inter­est­ed in relaunch­ing the Prac­tice Advi­so­ry and open­ing it up to more prac­ti­tion­ers across the city because we under­stand the impor­tant per­spec­tive they bring from hav­ing been on the front­lines,” says Angel St. Jean, assis­tant direc­tor of strate­gic ini­tia­tives at MOED. They’re work­ing direct­ly with res­i­dents, yet their voic­es are too often miss­ing at the deci­sion-mak­ing table. Any effort to move the nee­dle on employ­ment and wage out­comes has to be informed by them.”

Built on the belief that every res­i­dent deserves the oppor­tu­ni­ty for mean­ing­ful work and a hope­ful future, the Prac­tice Advisory’s pri­ma­ry goal is to enable local work­force prac­ti­tion­ers to edu­cate and sup­port each oth­er in improv­ing prac­tices, poli­cies and a col­lec­tive approach to improv­ing work­force out­comes citywide.”

Some of its notable accom­plish­ments in 2019 include:

  • estab­lish­ing a safe space for hon­est dis­course and learning;
  • pro­vid­ing feed­back on a com­mon set of per­for­mance met­rics that the Bal­ti­more Work­force Devel­op­ment Board will use to assess out­comes from occu­pa­tion­al skills-train­ing pro­grams and career cen­ters through­out the city;
  • cre­at­ing a vir­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty to more eas­i­ly share infor­ma­tion and col­lab­o­rate; and
  • hold­ing a free three-day pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment train­ing for front­line work­force devel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­als that cov­ered top­ics includ­ing trau­ma-informed care, cul­tur­al com­pe­ten­cy and asset-based coaching.

There were at least 60 prac­ti­tion­ers at each of the group’s quar­ter­ly con­ven­ings in 2019, and 80 at its first gath­er­ing in 2020.

No one work­force orga­ni­za­tion can real­ly move the nee­dle on employ­ment out­comes across Bal­ti­more and address the racial dis­par­i­ties in those out­comes,” said Eli Allen, Prac­tice Advi­so­ry mem­ber and direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Careers at Civic Works. More and more peo­ple are show­ing up and par­tic­i­pat­ing because they see the val­ue in the quar­ter­ly con­ven­ings, the pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties and the col­lab­o­ra­tion. It’s been so valu­able to have this space where we can step back, look at what we’re doing and strate­gize with each oth­er about how to improve the work­force devel­op­ment sys­tem in Baltimore.”

The Prac­tice Advi­so­ry will con­tin­ue build­ing its infra­struc­ture in the year ahead, focus­ing on what it refers to as high action/​high align­ment” to improve employ­ment and wage out­comes in Bal­ti­more. Mem­bers say their work is need­ed now more than ever giv­en the eco­nom­ic ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the COVID-19 virus.

Learn more about Casey’s work­force efforts

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