Benchmarks of Success Issue 24, March 2021

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 24, March 2021

Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) Maryland – A Solution for Businesses and Workers

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act charges Maryland's workforce system with reaching individuals who are most in need of coordinated services and resources, especially individuals with barriers to employment. Experienced staff know that accomplishing this task can sometimes involve navigating a complex web of partners and opportunities. Which program is right for a customer? Where are the good jobs on career pathways? Which employers need which skill sets? This article and some others in this month's newsletter highlight an innovative state-funded competitive grant program that has answers to these questions - and more.

What is EARN Maryland?

The EARN Maryland (EARN) program was launched in 2014 as a new approach to serving workers and businesses. EARN helps unemployed, underemployed, and incumbent workers by creating formal career paths to good jobs, reducing barriers to employment, and sustaining or growing middle class jobs. EARN enables Maryland's most hard-to-serve jobseekers to gain access to job readiness training which may include GED® preparation, occupational skills development, literacy advancement, and transportation and child care components. At the same time, EARN helps businesses by focusing intensively on the workforce needs of specific industry sectors over a sustained period. The program is active in diverse sectors located in every region of the state.

How Does EARN Maryland Work?

EARN awards funding to Strategic Industry Partnerships (SIPs) comprised of employers, non-profits, higher education, local workforce development boards, and local governments to address the multiple needs of companies, starting with the training of skilled workers. In addition to ensuring employer needs are addressed, bringing all of these partners together streamlines the process of serving participants with barriers to employment, maximizing their chances for success. Once formed, SIPs develop and implement plans to train and educate workers, using the power of coordination across education, workforce, and economic development entities to support participants and place them in meaningful employment.

Why is EARN a Success Story?

EARN has been recognized as a best practice by numerous organizations, including the National Skills Coalition and the Urban Institute, for its unique program design and work in implementing sector strategies. EARN was named one of the Top 25 programs in the 2018 Innovations in American Government Award competition by The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a leading research center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Most recently, EARN was cited in a report published by the National Skills Coalition for its investment in incumbent worker training.

To understand why the EARN program has been so widely recognized as a best practice, consider the following statistics:

As of October 2020 –

  • More than 8,500 incumbent workers have received training, attained new credentials, certifications and/or skills.
  • Over 5,300 individuals have obtained employment through EARN.
  • The Business Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) at Salisbury University found that for every dollar the state invests into the program, an additional $17.32 in economic activity is created. The national average for programs similar to EARN is $3.41.

If you would like to learn more about the EARN program or want to explore how the individuals you serve can benefit from the EARN program, you can visit the program’s website, download the recently published 2020 EARN Maryland Annual Report, or reach out to

EARN logo


COVID-19 Corner

The EARN Program - Pivoting in a Pandemic: Responding to Changing Training Needs within Industry

The experience was universal. The arrival of COVID-19 and the widespread shutdowns it precipitated turned life upside down. This was no less true for EARN grantees, suddenly challenged to identify alternative strategies for serving participants. Grantees needed to continue providing program participants with support for employment barriers and engaging participants in programming and case management activities despite new limitations. Beyond just managing to overcome challenges, some EARN grantees were able to transition their activities to provide support for the state’s response to the health crisis. Here are their stories:


Early in the pandemic, it became apparent that the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was going to skyrocket. In order to meet this demand, the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) was able to support manufacturers in real time as they quickly pivoted production and brought on new staff to manufacture face shields and masks. The partnership was able to provide support to multiple companies. Of note, MEP partnered with Hardwire to train more than 150 new hires to safely and effectively manufacture high-quality, medical-grade products. Hardwire, in turn, donated 200,000 face shields to the Maryland State Department of Education.


The economic disruption caused by the pandemic has been devastating for communities and families. The Maryland Food Bank (MFB), an EARN grantee, has played a vital role in providing nutritious meals to the growing number of food-insecure Marylanders during this heightened time of need. As part of their COVID-19 Food Access Response Plan, MFB distributed boxed meals, which were prepared by their EARN culinary trainees in the food bank’s Charles T. Bauer Community Kitchen. With the help of EARN trainees, the MFB prepared and delivered 401,540 meals between March and September alone.


In order to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19, biopharmaceutical companies worked diligently to create vaccines, antiviral medications, and therapeutic treatments. This provided an excellent opportunity for graduates from EARN BioTech programs to learn firsthand and be a part of something truly groundbreaking. The Baltimore BioTechnology SIP, led by Baltimore BioWorks, placed three graduates at Global Botanical Manufacturing, a local biotechnology company. The company is currently manufacturing a therapeutic treatment that reduces the COVID-19 viral load so that an infected person does not get sick or exhibit symptoms. Baltimore BioPrep, led by the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland (BTI), reported that many of their recent graduates were hired by biotechnology companies in biomanufacturing positions working on the production of COVID-19 detection and therapeutics to fight the virus.

For more information on successful EARN activities, visit the website here.


Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan


Upcoming 2021 Newsletters

4/20, 5/25, 6/22, 7/20, 8/24, 9/21, 10/26, 11/23



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EARN Maryland - Specialized Nursing Bridge Program

Region: Montgomery County

EARN graduation

The Specialized Nursing Bridge Program, led by Adventist, continues to work to increase retention among first year nurses through their nurse preceptor training program. It has been estimated that 43% of new nurses tend to leave the field within the first three years. The training provides added support and learning in an effort to decrease this attrition. A skilled healthcare workforce is needed now more than ever, and the partnership was able to train one of their largest cohorts in 2020. To date, over 350 individuals have received training, and employers report an increase in employee retention.

Participant Success Story: “I am a nurse resident at Shady Grove Hospital in the Medical Surgical flex unit. Being in the nurse residency program has been a wonderful experience. I have felt supported every step of the way and it is very important for me, especially as I am a new nurse. My orientation was four months long and, in that time, I felt adequately prepared to begin working on my own and as well as being part of the team with my unit. I have the opportunity to meet other nurses from other specialties along with interacting with each other and learning about the experiences from their specialties so that also been an enlightening experience for me. Finally, the nurse residency coordinators have been very supportive. They have so many resources available to us, and just knowing that they’re there for me has been great. So overall, I feel blessed and happy to be in the residency program, and I’m thankful for the way the program is structured.”

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

  • A Look at the Pandemic's Impact on Women Workers in Maryland - 

    March is National Women’s History Month, a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. Since working women in Maryland are making important contributions throughout the state every day, we wanted to provide our readers with a data-based status update on how they are faring and explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their employment and earnings.

    The year 2020 opened on a high note for women workers in Maryland. Statistics collected by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that Maryland was leading the nation in closing the gender pay gap between men and women. A 2019 BLS analysis reported that Maryland had the highest women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio among the 50 states for women who were full-time wage and salary workers. Maryland women’s median usual weekly earnings of $1,017 was 89.1% of the $1,142 median usual weekly earnings for their male counterparts. In comparison, women nationwide earned $821 per week or 81.5% of the $1,007 median for men. Not only were Maryland women reaching pay parity with men, but the labor force participation rate among Maryland women reached the highest point ever in February 2020. Women workers in Maryland were doing well.

    Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, disproportionately impacting women so profoundly that a new term was coined to describe the phenomenon – the “She-cession.”

    About 84,000 women left the labor force in the first few months of the pandemic, compared with about 40,000 men during the same period. During the pre-pandemic months of January and February, more men than women were receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits. That ratio flipped once shutdowns began. Women had a higher rate of unemployment than men for six months during 2020, topping out at 10% in July.

    The comparisons of labor force participation and unemployment rates reveal only part of the pandemic’s impact on women workers. To be considered unemployed, an individual must be looking for work. People seeking work in industries hard hit by the pandemic, such as hospitality or transportation, may choose not look for work, thinking no openings are available. Similarly, people with children may be unable to work because childcare is less available and many schools have been shut down. Also consider that unemployment benefits are available only to those whose departure from work was involuntary. Workers forced to leave a job to provide care for a family member do not meet the standard for involuntary departure and may therefore be ineligible for benefits.  Each of these factors has tended to affect women more than men; during the pandemic, women have been more likely to work in hard hit industries and, with the closure of many schools and workplaces, were more likely to leave a job to care for a child or other family member.

    The employment picture continues to improve for both men and women as the economic recovery gains momentum. Still significant disparities continue to exist that may result in serious long-term earnings losses for women in the coming years.

    If you want to dig deeper, here are some articles that offer additional insights on this critical workforce issue:

    How Have U.S. Working Women Fared During the Pandemic?

    The Pandemic is Pushing Women, People of Color Out of Their Careers

    How COVID-19 Sent Women’s Workforce Progress Backward

    School closures ‘sideline’ working mothers

    The Gendered Consequences of a Weak Infrastructure of Care: School Reopening Plans and Parents’ Employment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Grant Program Helps to Diversify the Information Technology Center - Workforce Data show that women and minorities are significantly underrepresented in the Information Technology (IT) industry. In fact, a recent study released by the Governor’s Workforce Development Board recommended creating innovative and sustainable ways to address gender and racial disparities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and IT fields. As such, some EARN grantees have the secondary goal of diversifying the industry through targeted recruitment efforts and are doing so through the formation of unique and meaningful partnerships. For instance, through targeted recruitment efforts and a close partnership with a variety of community-based organizations, the SANS Cyber Workforce Academy seeks to diversify the cyber industry’s workforce by training and placing women and minorities into cybersecurity careers. A recent calculation found that nearly 40% of the participants trained were women, and 67% were minorities. Additionally, Baltimore Cyber is committed to diversifying the industry. Through their strong relationships with community partners, they have experienced great success. In 2020, 58% of the individuals trained in the Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineering Technology program were minorities and 41% were women.

    Content excerpted from the 2020 EARN Maryland Annual Report.

  • The Number of Women Choosing Apprenticeship as a Career Path Continues to Grow -

    The Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program (MATP) is committed to expanding apprenticeship opportunities for historically underrepresented populations, including women. Although apprenticeships offer excellent career pathways that combine paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction, few women participated in these employment opportunities in the past, assuming they were only available in male-dominated trades occupations in which they would not be welcomed. Thanks to MATP’s efforts and evolving standards on what qualifies as “women’s work,” the number of female apprentices in Maryland is growing. Between November 2016 and today, the number of women apprentices in Maryland has risen 75%.  In real numbers, the number of female apprentices climbed from 344 to 601!  

    A portion of this growth is driven by an increase in the number of women pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated occupations. The Oregon Tradeswomen, an organization dedicated to promoting success for women in the trades through education, leadership and mentorship, produced a series of excellent videos profiling women with thriving careers in a variety of trade-related occupations. The videos are a great resource to share with women jobseekers you serve who are interested in exploring these excellent career pathways.

    The diversity of Maryland apprenticeships beyond the conventional paradigm of the building trades is also fueling dramatic growth in women’s participation. Check out the sampling below to see some of Maryland’s non-traditional apprenticeship programs and their percentages of women apprentices.


    • 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund – 80.5% of all apprentices registered in the history of the program were women
    • Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare – 65.6% of all apprentices registered in the history of the program were women
    • Humanim, Inc. – 75%  of all apprentices registered in the history of the program were women  

    Information Technology

    • OST Global Solutions – 85% of all apprentices registered in the history of the program were women
    • Baltimore Cyber Range, LLC – 70% of all apprentices registered in the history of the program were women

    MATP is working to bring more non-traditional apprenticeships online all the time. Recently, new programs were approved for occupations such as Community Health Worker, Restaurant Line Cook, and Table Games supervisor.

    The jobseekers you serve can learn more about apprenticeship by visiting MATP’s website, and they can easily explore the long and growing list of Maryland apprenticeship programs by visiting MATP’s Apprenticeship Locator, which allows site visitors to search for apprenticeships by location, industry, or occupation.    

  • Benchmarks of Success Professional Development and Technical Assistance (PDTA) Committee Releases First Module in Training Series - Approximately 1,500 workforce system staff were included in the February 22, 2021 statewide rollout of Module 1 in a new eLearning series developed by the Benchmarks of Success PDTA Committee. Module 1 provides an overview of the new eLearning series. Module 2, planned for release on April 19, 2021, will expand on the information presented in Module 1 and will introduce the Benchmarks of Success initiative.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The PDTA Committee designed the eLearning series for frontline staff, managers, and system administrators serving workforce system customers through a variety of partner programs at the state, regional, and local levels. The eLearning series will be accessible to learners via the Maryland HUB platform.
  • Transportation Assistance Program (TAP) - Life without a car can be difficult at best and unmanageable at worst. For low-income families across Maryland, especially recipients of funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, transportation may be a significant hurdle in finding gainful employment and moving toward financial independence. Indeed, employers cite transportation problems as the second-most common reason for losing entry-level workers. Through a network of partners across the state, TAP provides reliable used vehicles that will serve eligible low-income families for two years or 24,000 miles, often leading to the following dramatic improvements:
    • Better Jobs with Greater Incomes – Even in regions with a strong transit system, many low-income families have trouble getting to jobs for which they are qualified. Some are forced to turn down good positions in favor of lower paying jobs with better transit access. A car gives people access to better job opportunities and the flexibility to work extra shifts or overtime.
    • Shorter Commutes – It is not unusual for low-income families to spend four to five hours a day commuting to and from work, sometimes taking multiple modes of transportation. For parents, a reliable vehicle translates into more time spent at home with children and more flexibility to take care of life’s unforeseen needs.
    • Healthier Families – Vehicles enable positive behavioral changes. Access to a car makes it easier for families to seek preventive medical care, find the time to exercise, and make grocery store trips procuring fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Richer Lives – When parents have shorter commutes, children are much more likely to play on sports teams and participate in special after-school activities. Without the restrictions of public transit, families can take advantage opportunities for enrichment that were not previously possible.

    Interested? Potential participants should inquire through their local department of social services’ TAP Coordinator, or contact our statewide TAP partner, Vehicles for Change.

  • Accessibility Tip of the Month - All Maryland Workforce System staff should be sure that the digital and printed materials they publish are accessible to individuals with disabilities, including internal and public-facing documents. But if accessibility issues are not a focus of your job, knowing where to start can feel a little overwhelming. We will include tips each month to help our newsletter readership introduce themselves incrementally to easy accessibility tips and tricks.

    People with visual impairments frequently use assistive technologies to read a document. This is typically software that reads a computer screen out loud. These screen readers detect the structure and features of a document by looking at the document's underlying code. When the document is coded properly, it is accessible.

    There are seven requirements to make a Word document accessible, including:

    1. Document Structure
    2. Figures
    3. Hyperlinks
    4. Lists
    5. Columns
    6. Color and Contrast
    7. Tables

    So far we have covered tips for establishing an accessible document structure and how to present figures. This month we'll tackle #3 - Hyperlinks.


    Descriptive Hyperlinks are important to accessibility. Use meaningful text for hyperlinks, instead of the once common "Click Here" or "For More Information." Screen readers vocalize the document's hyperlink.

    Imagine the confusion when hearing this list of links: “click here, click here, click here.”

     Content excerpted from the Office of the Texas Governor’s Creating Accessible Microsoft Office Documents resource page.


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 WIOA Alignment Group meets on the last Monday of each month. The most recent meeting was held on February 22, 2021 and the next meeting is scheduled for March 29, 2021. 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 February 16, 2021. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 18, 2021. 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 this monthly newsletter as a forum for partners to share information on important developments that impact the system. The Committee held its most recent meeting on March 11, 2021. The group's next scheduled meeting will be held on April 8, 2021. 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 March 18, 2021. 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 held its most recent meeting on March 18, 2021. The next meeting is scheduled for April 15, 2021. You can learn more about the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee’s ongoing activities here.


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