Which comes first?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know by now that Baltimore Rising is hell bent on initiating an all-inclusive economic recovery in the city. We’re talking about a turnaround of such nature and magnitude that it dramatically reduces unemployment and poverty.

Okay. How do we do that? Some people have argued that we need more training. Their point is that Baltimore’s unemployed and under-employed are not prepared to take jobs currently open in the area or with employers who might, with sufficient incentives, move to the city.

We don’t think that job training is where you start. Training people in advance of knowing the specific jobs for which they will qualify, post-training, is a supply-side strategy that we think doesn’t work. It’s an argument that says, “If we produce a trained workforce, they will magically attract the specific employers to their market that will hire them for the jobs for which they are now qualified.” We don’t think that’s a likely scenario.

Training is time-consuming and expensive. More to the point, it’s unbelievably discouraging when, having taken the time, spent the money and graduated from training, the jobs that were anticipated aren’t available, never materialized or were there but someone else took them before you were ready.

No. Training in advance of employment – except for general education, of course – for specific jobs is a mistake. It’s a bold statement that sounds like we don’t think specialized training is important which is not the case. Of course it’s important. What’s also important is knowing the specific requirements of the job for which you’re being trained – and knowing for sure that you’re going to get that job when you ready.

We prefer to start with employers. They are the demand side of the market for labor. Start by bringing employers to the heart of the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods and then give them an incentive – literally pay them, if necessary – to hire and train our unemployed and under-employed on-the-job. That way, there’s no question as to whether or not the training they receive will result in employment.

So, jobs first, training second. Demand-driven economic recovery. That’s our strategy at Baltimore Rising and we’re sticking to it.


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