Benchmarks of Success Issue 36, May 2022

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 36,  May 2022

paper machine

April 30, 2022 marked the third anniversary of an event that changed the lives of 675 workers employed at the VERSO Paper Mill in Allegany County. This was the day in 2019 when VERSO workers learned that the plant where some had been employed for decades would be permanently closing. As workers faced an uncertain future, multiple organizations quickly stepped in to mitigate the potentially damaging impacts of such a large closure. MD Department of Labor (MD Labor) and the Western Maryland Consortium, the local workforce entity serving Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties, worked closely to mobilize state and local workforce system resources to help affected workers move forward to new employment opportunities.

Trade Adjustment Assistance Program Offered VERSO Workers Support in Addition to Regular Workforce System Services

Because the VERSO closure was related to overseas competition, the workers who lost their jobs were eligible to receive benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (Trade) Program, a program that is jointly administered by MD Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning and Division of Unemployment Insurance. The TAA program was established under the Trade Act of 1974 to assist adversely affected workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports or production transfers abroad. The primary goal of the Trade program is to help affected workers gain the skills, credentials, resources, and support they need to return to the workforce as quickly as possible.

Here are a few examples of the help displaced VERSO workers received through the TAA program:

  • 231 VERSO impacted workers have taken advantage of Trade benefits in Maryland.
  • 78 workers received specialized Trade benefits for workers 50 years of age and older that have been employed since their termination at VERSO. The program includes a wage subsidy that provides 50% of the difference between their old wage and their current wage if they are making less than $50,000 dollars.
  • 66 VERSO impacted workers are in the Trade program in West Virginia and 16 are receiving the specialized Trade benefits for workers over 50.

And here are some of the positive outcomes:

Learn more about Maryland’s Trade program on MD Labor’s website. And check out the two short videos below to see more examples of the new careers former VERSO employees are building with help from the workforce system:



Meet DWDAL's New Americans Initiative Coordinator, Joana Winningham

Joana Winningham recently joined MD Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning (DWDAL) as the New Americans Initiative Coordinator. Joana brings experience to her new role, both as a DWDAL customer and a member of the Division’s team. During a job search in 2017, she attended a job fair at the Professional Outplacement Assistance Center (POAC), where she connected with an employment opportunity as a Spanish speaking facilitator for reemployment workshops offered through the state’s network of American Job Centers. She helped to build the state’s reemployment services program in the ensuing years, assisting countless individuals access career services and successfully transition to new jobs. While Joana will miss working side-by-side with the POAC colleagues who have become family, she looks forward to the opportunities she will have as New Americans Initiative Coordinator to ensure that immigrants and English Language Learners are fully integrated into the state’s workforce system. For more information about the New Americans Initiative or to contact Joana, email


Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan



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National Jet Company Owner/President Sam B. Griffith (CENTER) is pictured with new employees John Lease (LEFT) and Devin Holbrook (RIGHT), former employees of the VERSO Corporation

Verson employees

John Lease and Devin Holbrook didn’t waste much time waiting to contact the Western Maryland Consortium (WMC) when they learned their jobs at the VERSO Paper Mill were ending. John registered with WMC’s Garrett County American Job Center (AJC) and Devin registered with WMC’s Allegany County AJC.

John and Devin wanted to use their previous VERSO experiences in production to obtain new skills with industry recognized credentials. WMC staff helped them secure training funds to enroll in the Manual and CNC Machinist Training Programs offered by Allegany College of Maryland. This Manual and CNC machine training combines classroom and hands-on operation of state-of–the-art milling equipment to prepare students to be able to test their competency to obtain National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) industry certifications.

Ultimately, John and Devin earned a variety of NIMS certifications through their training. Soon their hard work and ambition paid off, and both were able to secure employment with the National Jet Company Inc. located in LaVale MD. National Jet Company is an international leader in micro-hole drilling. Mr. Sam B. Griffith, Owner and President of the company, has been very favorably impressed by these new hires, who continue to demonstrate a strong work ethic and possess specialized credentials that were obtained through the Manual and CNC Machinist Technology Programs. 

Nice work!

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

  • May is Military Appreciation Month -

    The month of May is officially observed as Military Appreciation Month across the nation. It is a special month for both those in and out of the military. Not only do we pause on Memorial Day to remember the sacrifice and service of those who gave all, but the month also holds several other military anniversaries and events, including Military Spouse Appreciation Day and Armed Forces Day. Read more

  • Remembering Maryland’s Correctional Education Team During Teacher Appreciation Week - 

    National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2 – 6, 2022) was a good opportunity to remember the dedicated team of educators who support Maryland’s workforce system by working with individuals incarcerated in Maryland state institutions. The Correctional Education Program has 229 positions dedicated to offender instruction. The professionals who fill these roles provide incarcerated students with essential educational support through more than 50 academic, occupational, and workforce skills classes. Learn more about Maryland’s Correctional Education program here.

  • MD Labor Released Three New Policies in May -  

    Direct Care Workforce Innovation Program

    To help strengthen the pipeline of qualified healthcare workers, the Maryland General Assembly legislators passed the Labor and Employment – Direct Care Workforce Innovation Program. This program provides matching grants that create and expand on successful recruitment and retention strategies that address the range of potential barriers to increasing the number and availability of direct care workers across Maryland. Learn more about this new workforce program in the just-released policy: Direct Care Workforce Innovation Program.

    Law Enforcement Cadet Registered Apprenticeship Program 

    In 2019, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Community Safety and Strengthening Act. One element of the new law was the creation of the Law Enforcement Cadet Registered Apprenticeship Program. The purpose of the program is to provide funding to eligible law enforcement agencies to offset the additional costs associated with hiring Registered Apprentices. Learn more about this new workforce program in the just-released policy: Law Enforcement Cadet Registered Apprenticeship Program.

    Lower Living Standard Income Level (LLSIL) Guidelines 

    This policy provides the annual LLSIL for 2022 for the Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning and references the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s current 2022 poverty guidelines. Title I of WIOA requires the United States Secretary of Labor to update and publish the LLSIL guidelines tables annually. States must use these tables as described in the law, including for youth eligibility determinations. Learn more about the newest issue of the policy: 2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines & 2022 Lower Living Standard Income Level.

  • From the desk of the Chief Learning Officer for Maryland's Workforce System, John Feaster III

    The next module in the Benchmarks of Success eLearning Series, Module 7: Understanding Title IV, was released on May 30, 2022. Keep an eye on your inbox for your notification to complete it!

    This latest addition to the eLearning series joins the previously released modules below:

    • Introduction to the HUB
    • Benchmarks of Success
    • The Governor’s Workforce Development Board
    • Understanding Title I
    • Understanding Title II
    • Understanding Title III

    For more information on these learning opportunities, feel free to reach out to me at

    Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities!

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 typically meets on the last Monday of each month. The most recent meeting was held on May 23, 2022. The next meeting is scheduled for June 27, 2022. 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 quarterly meeting was held jointly with the Policy Committee on May 26, 2022. The group's next meeting will also be held jointly with the Policy Committee on July 28, 2022. 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 Benchmarks of Success newsletter is the committee's main deliverable. The newsletter serves as a central forum targeting frontline service providers, where partners can share information on important developments that impact the system. The Committee held its most recent meeting on May 12, 2022. The group's next meeting is scheduled for June 23, 2022. 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 jointly with the Data and Dashboard Committee on May 26, 2022. The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for June 23, 2022. The Committee also has a follow-up meeting scheduled with the Data and Dashboard Committee on July 28, 2022. 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 typically meets on the third Wednesday of each month. The group held its most recent meeting on April 19, 2022 and has the next meeting scheduled for June 15, 2022. You can learn more about the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee’s activities here.


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