The MACo Summer Conference featured a session discussing challenges facing Maryland’s public trades workforce and how Counties can turn those challenges into rewarding opportunities. This session was moderated by Jack Wilson, Commissioner for Queen Anne’s County.
It is no secret that the labor force in the United States is shifting. More individuals are attaining higher education, and each generation is becoming more educated then the last. This shift in the labor force is posing new challenges for employers in all sectors, but especially so for those in local government. To best meet these challenges, both the Maryland Department of Labor and local Counties are rethinking recruitment, retention, and training.
James Rzepkowski, Assistant Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, highlighted the benefits and ease of establishing these apprenticeship programs in County government. These programs can be the answer to many of the recruiting challenges facing counties. Assistant Secretary Rzepkowski explained that apprenticeships are currently an already established practice for many of desperately needed professions, such as electricians and plumbers, and can be expanded into other fields. At least 11 counties presently participate in some form of apprenticeship program, and this participation will likely increase. In fact, according to a study conducted by the United States Department of Labor, every $1 invested in these programs returned on average $1.47.
Stacey Simmons, Chief of Classification & Pay at Howard County’s Office of Human Resources, spoke about how her county was working to make partnerships with local community colleges and other academic institutions to establish apprenticeship programs that meet both the of needs of the county and the requirements of the institution. In one instance, she described how she was able to bring in new apprentices and assign them first to their main department and then later have them work in other facilities as to meet the required hours and work type. Through this pilot, she was able to tap into a new pool of future public servants in traditionally difficult areas of recruitment.
While the modern labor force’s focus on higher education over skills is presenting new challenges, Maryland’s public sector is demonstrating the flexibility and resourcefulness to meet these challenges head on.
More about MACo’s Summer Conference: