Benchmarks of Success Issue 19, September 2020

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 19, September 2020

A Tool to Help Adult Learners Gain Digital Literacy Skills

Digital Literacy: The skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.

Maryland’s workforce system has introduced two powerful new resources to help improve the digital literacy skills of adult learners! The Maryland Department of Labor’s Office of Adult Education and Literacy Services released the Digital Literacy Framework: Instructor Implementation Guide in August. The Instructor Guide was created to support Maryland’s Digital Literacy Framework, released in December of 2019. The purpose of the Framework is to define levels of digital literacy skills; link those levels with practical applications; articulate the role adult educators play in digital literacy education; and empower adult learners with digital literacy skills that span a variety of contexts. The companion Instructor Guide includes lesson activities and curated resources to help students, instructors, administrators, and adult education staff effectively use the Framework as a learning tool.

Social distancing measures put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pushed many adult learners accustomed to a classroom environment to learning online. But even before COVID-19 ushered in a new age of video conferences and shared Google documents, digital literacy was an essential skill for adult learners. The ubiquitous presence of technology in every facet of life requires adult learners to possess digital literacy skills to apply for jobs, perform job-related duties, and complete daily personal tasks. Unfortunately, the "digital divide" is real. According to Digital Promise, an independent, bipartisan nonprofit, authorized by Congress in 2008, an estimated 36 million adults in the U.S. lack the basic math, language, and digital literacy skills necessary to find well-paying jobs and navigate public and social systems.

The Digital Literacy Framework Work Group which convened to create the Framework intentionally structured the tool around seven distinct but interconnected Elements that focus on the relevant practical contexts in which adult learners need digital literacy skills:

Digital Literacy Framework




Physical navigation and operation of digital tools, structures, and conventions.


Using digital tools safely, effectively, and appropriately.



Sharing ideas clearly, effectively, and creatively with different audiences following digital communication protocols.



Connecting and working with others while using appropriate digital platforms and tools.

Computational Thinking

Using critical thinking and problem-solving skills in conjunction with technology to gather data, analyze information, and find a solution.


Searching, identifying, and validating reliable and authentic digital resources.


Creating content and/or products using digital tools.


To learn more about the Digital Literacy Framework and the Instructor Guide as well as many other instructional, program, and community resources, visit the Resource Page for Maryland Adult Education and Literacy Services.


COVID-19 CORNER: Lessons Learned from a Pandemic - AJCs Maintain High Quality Services in a Virtual Environment

The statewide network of 30 American Job Centers (AJCs) closed their physical locations in March, but the need for the workforce system’s services did not cease. To the contrary, the thousands of suddenly unemployed workers and disrupted businesses the pandemic left in its wake needed the support of the workforce system more than ever. Workforce system staff moved at lightening speed to maintain vital services, developing and implementing effective virtual alternatives to numerous services previously provided through brick-and-mortar facilities.

A few learnings from this real-time experiment:

  • High-quality, customized services can be effectively delivered through virtual platforms - and can even offer unique benefits. AJC staff successfully maintained services for thousands of job seekers and businesses by transitioning to a combination of communication tools including phone, text, email, and web conferencing. Between March 15 and August 31 of 2020, AJC staff used these communication tools to provide nearly 44,000 customers with assistance. More than 32,000 Marylanders enrolled in the Maryland Workforce Exchange either with the aid of AJC staff or through self-enrollment. AJC staff helped more than 2,000 customers access individualized career services or training. And Business Services staff assisted more than 5,000 businesses. Data is revealing that, in some cases, the introduction of virtual tools is yielding superior results. For example, the rate at which customers appeared for their first scheduled appointment more than doubled (from 32% to 68%) when staff switched from using mail as the primary contact method to using email, text, and telephone contact methods.
  • AJC staff are a crucial source of support for Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants. Thousands of customers caught in the overwhelming wave of unemployment created by the pandemic have received assistance from AJC staff to navigate the complexities of the unemployment insurance system. AJC staff work with individual customers to determine which communication method would be most practical to help them develop a reemployment plan in compliance with UI requirements. When the sheer volume of incoming calls to the Division of Unemployment Insurance prevents customers from being able to get through on their phone lines, AJC staff serve as liaisons to help customers resolve claims issues.
  • Large numbers of business and jobseeker customers can be reached through virtual events. MD Labor’s Business Services Unit conducted over 100 web-based Rapid Response events designed to educate COVID-impacted businesses and workers about UI, health coverage, career and training opportunities, and other support resources for dislocated workers and their families. On another front, MD Labor led a Statewide Virtual Job Fair in early August that hosted 114 employers and attracted nearly 1,000 job seekers! 

Most AJCs continue to provide virtual services to protect the health and safety of staff and customers; however, some AJCs are seeing customers for in-person services by appointment. To learn more about how specific AJCs are operating, visit MD Labor’s webpage for the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning.



Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan


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Army Veteran Angel Finds the Help He Needs with the Frederick County American Job Center

Angel's pic

From July 2019 – June 2020, over 3,600 veterans took advantage of services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Titles I (Adults, Dislocated Workers and Youth) and III (Wagner-Peyser Employment Services). During that same time period, over 1,000 eligible veterans received services through the Jobs for Veterans State Grant, which provided funding for dedicated staff to serve the individual career and training needs of veterans with significant barriers to employment.

Due to health issues, thirty-five year Army veteran Angel lost his civilian job with a Fort Detrick defense contractor in January 2020. After a significant time on Active Duty, he also retired from the Army Reserves in May 2020. In the meantime, Angel tried to open his own handy man business. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was forced to delay that particular dream. He soon found himself unemployed, low on cash, in need of health care, and in danger of not being able to pay his rent or car payments. Angel decided to contact the Frederick County American Job Center and ask for help.

After speaking with Job Service Specialist Jen Eberhardt, Angel was given information for some local resources. Frederick County Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist Kevin Madara was consulted for housing issues and other resources. Mr. Madara made contact with Angel after having him screened virtually for significant barriers to employment by Job Service Specialist James Oberhaus (Washington County). Angel soon found himself receiving case management services in the Jobs for Veterans State Grants Program with a DVOP. Read more...

Workforce Partners

Maryland Department of Labor                                                                  Maryland Department of Human Services

Maryland State Department of Education                                                Governor's Workforce Development Board

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development                            Maryland Workforce Association

Did You Know...?


Maryland's Latest Workforce Development Updates 

  • Stay Up-to-Date with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Newsletter - The DHCD invites professionals from across Maryland’s workforce system to sign up for the agency’s bi-weekly newsletter. This publication offers information on the latest developments and resources available to assist Marylanders struggling with housing insecurity and homelessness. The newsletter includes a link to the DHCD COVID-19 Resource Page and provides key updates on regional, state, and national developments and resources.

  • Maryland Workforce Exchange COVID-19 Page - Stay informed with the latest "Change in Advertised Jobs by Industry -- Pre COVID-19 to Current Date," "Latest Covid-19 News," "Upcoming Job Fairs and Recruitments," and more. 
  • Maryland Leaders Elected to National Role - Warm congratulations are extended to Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation Director Kirkland Murray and President & CEO of Employ Prince George's, Inc., Walter Simmons. The two Maryland workforce leaders were elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP), a professional association representing individual workforce development and human resources practitioners who connect jobseekers, educators, and companies to advance the American economy. Murray and Simmons will represent Region 3, which includes the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

  • National Recovery Month and New Resources to Help Marylanders Impacted by the Opioid Crisis     - September is National Recovery Month, an observance designed to celebrate the gains made by those in recovery, the development of new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.

    The consequences of the national opioid and substance misuse crisis have been especially dire for Maryland. According to data from the Center for Disease Control, our small state experienced the third largest increase in the nation in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in the period from 2015 to 2016 as well as the second highest rate of prescription opioid–involved overdose deaths in 2018.

    But there is hope and help is on the way! Governor Larry Hogan recently announced that the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) awarded Maryland $4.6 in competitive grant funds to provide training and other services to workers in communities significantly affected by the opioid crisis. The new funding will support a pilot program to serve more than 700 Marylanders in 14 jurisdictions across the state. The pilot program will provide participants with job training and recovery services, leading to employment in 14 high demand industries and occupations.

  • The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) Redesigned the COVID-19 Resource Website - DHS introduced a redesigned COVID-19 Resource Website in August to assist low-income populations that have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. DHS is the state’s primary social service provider, serving over one million people annually through 24 local departments of social services. The new website will be a valuable resource that DHS customers can easily navigate to access regularly updated information on relevant topics, such as health resources, the Governor’s ongoing response, and help for parents. Check the website out and share it with colleagues and the people you serve!


Benchmarks of Success Newsletters


Benchmarks of Success Committee Updates

Committee Chairs welcome questions from newsletter readers regarding the work in which their groups are involved! To be connected with a committee's leadership team, feel free to contact the Communications Committee at

All committees are currently meeting virtually.

  • The Executive Steering Committee is composed of the agency leaders of the partner agencies who meet periodically to provide the WIOA Alignment Group with high-level guidance. You can learn more about the Executive Steering Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The WIOA Alignment Group is composed of the department and division-level leaders of partner agencies who meet on a monthly basis to collaboratively address issues, plan joint efforts, make recommendations to the Executive Steering Committee, and manage and guide the activities of the Benchmarks of Success committees. The most recent meeting of the WIOA Alignment Group was held on September 28, 2020. You can learn more about the WIOA Alignment Group’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Data and Dashboard Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in program-based performance requirements and data collection methodologies and tools. The Committee meets on a quarterly basis to develop a consistent, sustainable system all workforce partners can use to measure, analyze, display, and apply Benchmarks data to continuously improve the quality and effectiveness of services. The Committee’s most recent meeting was held on August 18, 2020. The group’s next scheduled meeting will be held on November 17, 2020. You can learn more about the Data and Dashboard Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Communications Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in programs and communications methods and tools. The Committee meets on a monthly basis to foster the integration of Maryland’s workforce system by broadly promoting the activities of the Benchmarks of Success committees and the services and resources of partner agencies and programs. The Committee produces a monthly newsletter designed to help workforce system partners share information on the wide range of diverse services and resources that are available, and to keep partners up-to-date on important developments impacting the system. The Committee’s most recent meeting was held on September 10, 2020. The group’s next scheduled meeting will be held on October 8, 2020. You can learn more about the Communications Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Policy Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in workforce system policy issues. The Committee meets on a monthly basis to research policy issues and produces an annual Policy Recommendations Report. The recommendations included in the Report help to guide system priorities and initiatives. The Committee’s most recent meeting was held on September 17, 2020. The group’s next scheduled meeting will be held on October 15, 2020.  You can learn more about the Policy Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee works to advance a unified professional development program that helps all partner programs: maximize access to and use of skills and credentialing and life management skills; eliminate barriers to employment through the use of supportive services; and strengthen and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the workforce system. The Committee’s most recent meeting was held on September 24, 2020. A date for the group’s next meeting has not yet been set. You can learn more about the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee’s ongoing activities here.


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