Benchmarks of Success Issue 20, October 2020

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 20, October 2020

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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

Maryland is commemorating the 75th National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebration this October. During NDEAM, service providers, advocates, and stakeholders seek to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

NDEAM is led by the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. The 2020 NDEAM theme is Increasing Access and Opportunity. The observance culminates the Department’s year-long commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law enacted to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and access to opportunities as people without disabilities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes the ADA as an opportunity for the inclusion of people with disabilities in federal efforts related to public health and health care.

In addition to the career services available to jobseekers through the state's network of American Job Centers, many partner programs in Maryland's workforce system offer specialized career and employment services tailored to meet the unique needs of their target populations. Maryland workers with disabilities who meet certain eligibility requirements can access employment services through the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). DORS also helps Maryland businesses recruit and keep qualified, job-ready employees.


COVID-19 CORNER: DORS customers are essential workers

We all gained a new appreciation for the so-called “essential workers” who remained at their posts to keep grocery stores, drug stores, and myriad other basic services open and available during the early days of the pandemic, a time when many businesses were completely shut down. In honor of NDEAM, the October Benchmarks of Success newsletter is featuring two DORS consumers who filled essential workers roles at Weis Markets in the Baltimore area. Many thanks for your services, ladies!


Shakera works as a Sales Associate. Shakera attended and successfully completed DORS' Workforce & Technology Center (WTC) Work Readiness Program and also graduated from the WTC CVS Retail Training program. She was able to transfer her skills and abilities to a business outside of the CVS network--one of the key features of the program. In August, she applied, interviewed, and was hired for a retail sales associate position at Weis Market. Of the experience, Shakera boasts, "I’ve been has been easy!"


Shemardo works as a Custodian. Shemardo completed DORS WTC Work Readiness Program and is also graduated from WTC’s Environmental Services Training Program. She started working at Weis Market in January and has continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Shemardo's supervisor and team sing her praises, appreciating her positive attitude and dependability, especially during these trying times. Also, they report that she is thorough in maintaining store cleanliness for Weis customers and staff.


Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan


Upcoming 2020 Newsletters




Download and share the Benchmarks of Success poster, rack card, and two-sided flyer!

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New Training Program to Provide Career Opportunities to Individuals with Disabilities


Recently, DORS began a new collaboration with Sephora’s Maryland Distribution Center and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), to provide warehouse career opportunities to individuals with disabilities.

The first training class includes seven DORS consumers, began in September, and will run for nine weeks. The training course consists of soft skills training and on-the-job training as a Warehouse Associate. 

Future classes are planned to meet Sephora's goal of expanding 30% of its total warehouse workforce to include individuals with disabilities. This is the third facility in which Sephora is launching this program, following distribution centers in Olive Branch, MS and Las Vegas, NV.

The training was delayed from an original spring start date, due to the COVID-19, but since then Sephora has implemented strict hygiene and safety measures to enhance social distancing and increased cleaning and sanitation throughout the facility. Sephora has also created scheduling strategies to limit contact between associates to small working groups.

DORS has had success with other corporate training partners, including CVS Health and Starbucks, but the Sephora partnership is a first in that all job training taking place on site at Sephora. It is a model DORS will look to replicate in the future with other businesses.

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 

  • Adult and Family Literacy Week -

    Maryland adult educators and other workforce system stakeholders celebrated this year’s National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 20 - 26, 2020, by attending a variety of professional development events to share best practices and gain new insights. Although #AEFL Week 2020 was celebrated differently than years prior, due to the pandemic, many events were hosted by various organizations.

    • The Coalition of Adult Basic Education offered advocacy opportunities, provided awards to those who positively impacted adult education, and hosted panel discussions and a virtual job fair.
    • ProLiteracy provided an Adult Education and Family Literacy Week Toolkit and held the Great American Book Sale, which funds the Literacy Relief Fund that provides support to adult education programs.
    • Maryland Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and International TESOL programs highlighted adult educators who do amazing work in adult education and provided digital resources for adult educators.

    Adult educators have celebrated National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week since 2009 to raise public awareness about the importance of adult education and family literacy. Advocates across the country use the opportunity to elevate adult education and family literacy nationwide with policymakers, the media, and the community.

    Low literacy and numeracy levels have serious consequences for the workforce and economy. Statistics show that too many workers in the United States lack basic communication, literacy and numeracy skills. According to the National Literacy Directory, there are 36 million adults in the U.S. with limited English, reading, or math skills. Low literacy workers are more likely to struggle with unemployment or underemployment. They earn lower wages, and they receive more public assistance than workers who possess higher levels of these skills.

    If you would like more information adult education services available through Maryland’s workforce system, visit Maryland’s Adult Education and Literacy Services website.

  • Virtual Training Institute

    An exciting professional development event is coming soon for adult education instructors, administrators and stakeholders offering innovative, targeted professional development opportunities: Maryland Adult Education Virtual Training Institute (VTI)! Maryland’s Department of Labor, Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning offers these training opportunities twice annually, in June and December, to support improved learner outcomes in adult education. Participation is open to all and session content is offered at no cost. Sessions vary from 30-minute teaching tips to 1-hour conceptual discussions around topics specific to adult education. The next VTI will take place on December 7-9, 2020. Event registration will open in mid-November. To view session descriptions and register for the next Institute, visit the VTI website. Together we can strengthen the instructional foundation in Maryland, improve student outcomes, and build a stronger workforce!  

  • Current Service Delivery Status in Maryland's American Job Centers (AJCs) -

    Many Maryland jobseekers and businesses continue to receive valuable services from the network of 30 AJCs located in the 12 workforce development areas (WDAs) across the state, who were surveyed for the October Benchmarks of Success newsletter regarding how they are currently delivering services.

    While this report focuses on programs delivered under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s Title I for Adults, Dislocated Workers and Youth, many other partners also provide services through the AJCs. Every WDA has its own unique partner composition. We have included links throughout the article to specific organizations to help readers follow up with questions on specific partner services.

    Read on to learn more about how your area AJCs are operating as we all continue to deal with the pandemic and the need to maintain social distancing.

    Southern MD(Calvert, Charles, and Saint Mary’s Counties) – Southern Maryland staff are taking limited appointments at the Prince Frederick, Lexington Park, and Mobile Center AJCs. All services remain virtual at the WDA's Waldorf site. Workshops and job clubs are held weekly on a virtual platform. Weekly outreach to UI recipients, long-term unemployed individuals, and community partners continue to provide timely UI updates and a list of open jobs in the region with links to apply. AJC virtual workshops and job clubs, customized recruitments, and other timely information for jobseekers is also available. A weekly eblast includes a fillable form for recipients to submit to workforce staff to ask questions and seek information.

    Susquehanna - (Cecil and Harford Counties) The Susquehanna Workforce Network (SWN) is providing the full range of career, training, and supportive services for jobseekers. Valuable seminars are currently delivered via virtual formats and will remain online for the foreseeable future. Online training opportunities continue to expand as new options arise. Various in-person and hybrid occupational training options are becoming more available as pandemic infection rates fall. Work experience options, particularly for youth, are being planned to complement online occupational training and career planning activities. SWN has introduced a new JobConnect program to help workers whose jobs were impacted find new employment. Business services, particularly services to support recovery, also continue.

    Western MD - (Allegany, Garrett and Washington Counties) The Western Maryland Consortium in all three counties is open. Staff are serving customers by appointment only. All clients must attend the virtual orientation (on the WDA’s website) then call to schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor. All staff and customers must wear a mask and use the hand sanitizer when entering the office.  Plexiglass is on each Counselor's desk, and everything is sanitized after the visit. Computers have been positioned 6 feet apart and can be used by appointment only. 

    AAWDC - Most services, including assessments, intake, and career coaching are currently provided virtually. Some training providers are offering online training opportunities, while others, such as occupational training for Commercial Driver Licensure and Certified Nursing Assistant and Geriatric Nursing Assistant Certifications, are now being delivered in-person.

    Frederick CountyA wide range of services and resources are currently available to customers virtually, including: resume and interview preparation; an online resume submission portal (; a Job Club; job seeker podcasts; orientation sessions; career coaching and intensive job search assistance for adults and youth; training and supportive services; introductory classes in Microsoft WORD and EXCEL; virtual recruitment and hiring events; business education blogs; contactless printing service for individuals who need to print resumes; and job search related materials.

    Upper ShoreAll services are being delivered virtually at this time. The WDA has established an email account,, that customers are asked to use to initiate contact with AJC staff. Training scholarships are available to support a variety of occupational training opportunities.

    Baltimore County - AJC staff are currently working rotating schedules at the Hunt Valley and Liberty Career Centers, providing limited services by appointment only, Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Both AJCs are closed from noon to 1:00 p.m. All services delivered through the Eastpoint Career Center are virtual. Staff at all three AJCs continue to provide customers with wide range of workforce services and programming virtually (phone, computer, WebEx, etc.). However, the following services are available in-person at the Hunt Valley and Liberty centers with strict physical distancing: self-directed job search; assistance with Career Center registration and paperwork; and access to computers, printers and the fax machine. Self-service computer labs will be reduced to by no less than 50% with a one-hour time limit per day. Career Center staff will have limited ability to assist with lab services, but customers who have access to their own computers are encouraged to utilize their personal resources. To request an appointment, customers can contact AJC staff online at To schedule an appointment by phone, call 410-887-7940 to reach the Hunt Valley Center, and 410-887-8912 to reach the Liberty Career Center.

    Baltimore City - During this historic pandemic, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) has introduced several innovative approaches to serving Baltimore City residents. Many workforce services are available in a remote or virtual format, such as: career counseling and coaching; resume development; referral to occupational skills training; and access to available jobs on the Now Hiring COVID-19 job board. Residents also receive assistance with registering in the Maryland Workforce Exchange, an online job bank where applicants can search for and access available jobs, explore labor market information, and check the events calendar for activities related to finding a job or accessing training. MOED serves several thousand customers each week through virtual events delivered on the Facebook platform, including: Job Readiness sessions held every Tuesday at 1:00; Employer Recruitments held every Wednesday at 1:00 PM; and Job Club held every Thursday at 1:00 PM.

    Prince George’s County - The Prince George’s County Workforce Development Board has three service providers: Employ Prince George’s, Latin American Youth Center, and Eckerd Youth Connects/Prince George’s County Youth Career Center. Providers at all three sites are implementing a multitude of virtual service delivery options, including virtual case management, using traditional tools such as  Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and the Maryland Workforce Exchange. Additionally, Employ Prince George’s is piloting a partnership with Career Edge, Metrix Learning, and a contracted web developer to operate the EmployPG Edge Workforce Portal and the Prince George’s County American Job Center Community Network Membership Portal. The goal of Employ Prince George’s efforts is to create a network of virtual tools that provide online case management services and career readiness trainings, virtual occupational skills training, and a universal virtual portal that allows American Job Center partners the ability to communicate and share customers virtually.

    Lower ShoreThe Salisbury AJC’s physical site remains closed, but staff are continuing to provide services remotely, primarily through email and phone. A secure messaging system allows AJC staff to safely collect documents and easily secure electronic signatures.

    Mid-Maryland - The Howard and Carroll County AJCs are currently offering comprehensive services to customers virtually, including services such as: orientations; resume and job search assistance; workshops, a Job Club; job boards, job fairs; individualized one-on-one career counseling; and access to training. The Carroll County team can provide by-appointment-only orientations, assessments and computer usage for customers who may not have access to internet. Wellness and safety checks and protocols are in place for customers with in-person appointments. The Howard County team continues to provide services virtually only.

    Montgomery County - WorkSource Montgomery continues to serve customers during this time of need. Although physical service sites are closed currently, AJC staff are delivering a variety of services virtually. All workshops have been posted on the Maryland Workforce Exchange Calendar and customers can access one-on-one assistance via phone or video conferencing. Virtual job fairs are helping to connect job seekers and employers throughout the WDA. Staff have access to a secure online platform to complete the enrollment process, ensuring all personally identifiable information provided by customers is protected and secure. Customers without access to technology may use a dedicated in-person drop off day to provide staff with required documentation.

  • The Maryland 2020 - 2024 State Workforce Plan has been approved and will be online soon!

    The United States Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services have approved Maryland’s 2020 - 2024 Combined State Workforce Plan, a document that maps out the state’s strategic and operational blueprint for connecting Maryland employers with the talent their businesses need to thrive and reach jobseekers most in need with high quality career services. Maryland’s State Workforce Plan was collaboratively developed by the state’s Department of Labor, Department of Human Services (DHS), the Maryland State Department of Education’s (MSDE) Division of Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB), with extensive stakeholder engagement.

    The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requires states to outline how they are using federal funds to help jobseekers, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers. To ensure the alignment of the state’s strategy with program implementation at the regional and local levels, WIOA also requires the regions within states and the local workforce development areas (LWDAs) within regions to develop strategic 4-year plans. Regional and LWDA workforce plans must align with the state strategy but are also customized to reflect the unique strengths and needs of the area’s workforce and business landscape. At all three levels of planning, WIOA requires all of the partner programs to participate in the planning process, to effectively leverage and coordinate resources.

    The Benchmarks of Success Policy Committee recently released Regional and Local Planning Guidance which includes updated prompts that are aligned with new federal requirements. Regional Plans will be due to MD Labor on December 11, 2020, and Local Plans must follow by March 1, 2021.

  • Virtual Conference Explores Employment Issues for Workers with Disabilities During the Pandemic -

    The Kennedy Krieger Institute, Companions Inc., and the Seeking Employment, Equality, and Community for People with Developmental Disabilities (SEEC) organization hosted a virtual conference on October 22, 2020, Adjusting to a Virtual World: Working During COVID-19. Maryland Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany P. Robinson delivered the event’s keynote address, and two panels were moderated by Kennedy Krieger Board Chair Nancy Grasmick and Governor’s Workforce Development Executive Director Michael DiGiacomo. Panel discussions focused on the employment experiences of individuals with disabilities and direct support professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists provided insights on the realities of being an essential worker, furlough, and adjusting to new workplace practices. More information on the event, speakers, and panel moderators and participants is available on the conference website.

  • PA2E - 

    Entrepreneurship can be a great career path for individuals with good ideas and the drive to succeed. To help individuals receiving public assistance establish their own businesses, the Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) offers a Public Assistance To Entrepreneurship (PA2E) program. To participate in the program, a candidate must be receiving support through one of the following DHS programs:

    Participants in the PA2E program meet for 1 – 2 hour class sessions 1 – 2 times per week for about 8 weeks to complete an 8-course curriculum that includes the following classes:

    • Entrepreneurship 101
    • Marketing Research
    • Financial Statements
    • Creating a Business Plan
    • Credit Restoration
    • A to Z Loan Process
    • Social Media Marketing
    • Business Plan Presentation

    If you are serving a workforce system customer who is eligible for and interested in entrepreneurship, encourage them to complete the PA2E application!

  • Getting Southern Maryland Back to Work – A Regional Solution for a Regional Recovery - 

    The Southern Maryland region, which includes Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties, suffered the same system shocks experienced throughout the rest of the state when the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to Maryland. The area faced sudden high unemployment, severe business disruptions and closures, and a dramatic unplanned transition to virtual operations. Recognizing the critical need to mobilize and coordinate regional resources to support dislocated workers and hard-hit employers, the Tri-County Council’s Workforce Development Division and the College of Southern Maryland’s Continuing Education & Workforce Development Division collaborated with a variety of regional partners to jointly launch the regional Getting Southern Maryland Back to Work initiative.

    The new initiative aims to achieve three major recovery goals:

    • Invest in emerging skills needs. The pandemic has dramatically altered the work world, creating the need for both current employees and job seekers to expand their professional competencies to maintain a competitive edge and advance in careers. Many employers now need workers to possess new skills and knowledge in safety, sanitation, and remediation practices. To help workers build these competencies, the College of Southern Maryland enhanced existing training to include learning modules on Covid-19 awareness, and safe worker and workplace protocols. The pandemic has also driven the emergence of demand for new certifications, such as certifications in infectious control and barrier protection, community health workers, contract tracing, medical assisting, communication, and customer service skills. The Getting Southern Maryland Back to Work initiative is supporting training in all of these areas to help prepare workers with in-demand skills employers need to sustain a meaningful recovery.
    • Respond to business needs. A business services team of six individuals with over 100 years of combined experience is providing support for the Getting Southern Maryland Back to Work. This boots on the ground intelligence is guiding workforce training response efforts. The region’s 25-member Workforce Development Board has 13 private sector members representing the retail, hospitality, construction, healthcare, and information technology industries. Additionally, guidance from the regional Chambers of Commerce, County Economic Development Departments, and industry associations is aiding in determining priorities and shaping program development.
    • Reshape workforce development for the future. The unprecedented changes in business conditions and workforce needs underscore the imperative to leverage the pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine the workforce system. The Getting Southern Maryland Back to Work initiative is leading adaptive and agile solutions capable of nimbly and quickly responding to emerging needs. The workforce system must evolve to develop the skills and capacity to respond with the same level of resiliency and innovation required of industry to provide critical incumbent and new worker training.

    For more information about the College of Southern Maryland visit

    For more information about the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland’s Workforce Division visit

    For information about how to obtain employment and training assistance visit


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. The next scheduled meeting will be held on October 26, 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 October 8, 2020. The group’s next scheduled meeting will be held on November 12, 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 November 19, 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 October 20, 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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