Benchmarks of Success Issue 43, February 2023: Great Resources for Serving Maryland's Immigrant Population

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 43,  February 2023

In this month's newsletter, we are shining a light on the challenges and successes Maryland jobseekers who do not speak English as their first language can face in their career journeys. We have also included a variety of resources in the issue to help you serve the immigrant population, which contributes so much to our workforce and the fabric of our great state.

LAP cover


Language Access Plan Provides Valuable Guidance for Serving Workforce System Customers with Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

At some point, most frontline workforce system staff have found themselves working with customers who do not speak English as their mother tongue. Workforce system staff have a legal obligation under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Section 188 to ensure LEP customers have equal access to services. But how can staff who speak only English overcome the challenges the language gap creates to deliver the employment and training services these customers need?

Cue the Language Access Plan (LAP), jointly prepared by the Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning and Division of Unemployment. 

The LAP includes information and links to the Maryland Department of Budget and Management’s Statewide Foreign Language Interpretation/Translation Services web page, as well as links to the state-approved contractors for over-the-phone and in-person interpretation services and translation services. There are even instructions for how to access the Maryland Workforce Exchange in any of 22 available languages.

Find out more! Check out the LAP today!

Andre James

Celebrating Excellence During Black History Month: Andre James Keeps the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning (DWDAL) Growing   

Staff fortunate enough to have worked with Anne Arundel County Reemployment Programs Director (RPD) Andre James agree, he is a leader who brings his A-game every day to help Maryland jobseekers succeed. “Behind his humor and self-effacing manner lies a deep capacity to grasp details, and lead with vision and pragmatism,” says long-time colleague Statewide RPD Suja Joseph. “He has a special gift for recognizing each person’s potential and helping them believe in themselves.”

Andre’s commitment to facilitating excellence extends beyond his 30 years of service to Maryland workforce system customers. He is equally dedicated to supporting the professional growth of staff who report to him, and he contributes to the welfare of DWDAL by serving on a variety of statewide committees. Southern Maryland RPD Alan Crawley notes that, “Andre doesn’t just think about what we do, but how we do it, and why, and what impact our choices will have down the road. And he cares about supporting the growth of his reports, too. Look around and you’ll see several examples of DWDAL staff who started out working for Andre who have gone on to higher level positions within the Division.”

When asked how he feels about Black History Month, Andre says he is proud to work for an agency that has opened the doors of leadership to so many professionals who are people of color. “We are a better, stronger organization because the people sitting behind the desks bring a wide range of perspectives to the customers we serve,” Andre says.

Andre James holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brandeis University. When he is not serving customers or supporting the staff who work for him, he can usually be found on a golf course somewhere or enjoying good music.


Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan



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Success Story


Yama Takes the Next Step in His Adventurous International Career

To say Yama, who immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan with his family in 2010, is a highly-skilled professional may be an understatement. Yama earned a medical degree from Kabul Medical University and subsequently served as a general surgeon for the Afghan Government's health department and the Camp Phoenix Hospital operated by the American army. In addition to his healthcare career, Yama held Associate Professor roles teaching language and cryptology for a variety of U.S. federal agencies. And yet, despite his extensive formal training and diverse professional background, Yama found himself without a job in 2020 when funding for the programs he supported was eliminated.

Yama was fortunate to find Workforce Specialist Mitra Basu at the Columbia American Job Center (AJC) just when he needed her.

Yama shared with Mitra that he wanted to return to his medical career, but he could not afford the prohibitive costs involved. After working with Mitra to consider his options, Yama decided to leverage his medical training to become a surgical technician. Mitra helped Yama secure funding to cover the cost of Surgical Technologist training as well as the American Board of Surgical Associate certification exam. He completed the training and passed the exam with flying colors.

Today, Yama is finding that his skills are in high demand. The internationally renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital has offered him a job as an Assistant to the Surgeon for Urology, and Howard Community College is recruiting him to work as an Adjunct Faculty Professor of Surgery. With Yama’s determination and support from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), he is launching the next exciting chapter in an adventurous career path!


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

  • February is Black History Month -

    Each February, the United States observes Black History Month to celebrate the contributions of Black Americans and acknowledge the unique challenges they have faced over the history of our nation. Let's take a closer look at Marylander's Black population.

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Data for the five year period from 2017 to 2021:

    • 1,833,9878 Black citizens call Maryland home, ranking Maryland as having the 7th highest Black population in the country.
    • 2% of the Maryland’s Black population participate in the labor force, the 6th highest in the nation.
    • 9% of Maryland’s Black population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, the 4th highest in the nation.

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey, Black owned businesses are growing. 

    • There were 5,885 Black owned businesses statewide in 2012. By 2020, that number had increased to 6,717, reflecting 14%. This far exceeds the 2.1% growth of businesses, overall.
  • Skilled Immigrant Task Force - 

    Statistics gathered by the American Immigration Council indicate that one in seven Maryland residents is foreign born, and this population is a well-educated group. Nearly 45% of the adult immigrants who make their home in Maryland hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher and/or possess occupational skills that are in high demand with employers. Maryland’s immigrant community has a lot to offer employers, but they often face significant barriers to employment, such as limited English language proficiency, costly credential evaluations of their foreign degrees, complex licensing and recertification processes, a lack of professional networks, and/or knowledge of alternative career pathways.

    Maryland’s Department of Labor and Department of Human Services co-lead the Skilled Immigrant Task Force to provide Maryland workforce system staff with resources to support this population. The Task Force believes that the State of Maryland can lead the way in creating a win-win environment in which immigrants secure jobs matching their professional and educational backgrounds while helping the business community more readily meet its workforce needs. The group's membership brings together a consortium of stakeholders that includes representatives of community colleges, refugee resettlement agencies, the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, and other immigrant-serving organizations.

    Resources created by the Task Force:

  • How Can WIOA's Title II Adult Education and Literacy Program Help workforce System Customers Who Are New Americans? 

    The January issue of the Benchmarks of Success newsletter provided a broad overview of the partner programs in Maryland’s workforce system. In that overview, the WIOA Title II program was described as a program that provides adult education and literacy services, including English language services. That brief description covers a lot of ground, but let’s dig a little deeper to understand more specifically how Title II can support workforce system customers who are New Americans.

    The Office of Adult Education and Literacy Services (AELS) within the Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning oversees Maryland’s implementation of the WIOA Title II program. AELS awards funding to local providers, who serve every area in the state. Local providers deliver adult basic education, Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE), and Integrated Education and Training (IET) programs to adult learners, including New Americans striving to build a better life.

    The heart of the WIOA Title II program is the support learners receive from the dedicated, caring instructors and transition staff who are a part of local provider programs. These professionals provide learners with individualized guidance and collaborative referrals that will empower them to achieve their goals.

    Are you serving customers who could benefit from these programs? Visit here to learn more about offerings funded through Maryland’s Department of Labor.
  • Successful Virtual Training Institute (VTI) brings together over 1,000 Maryland adult educators for professional development - Maryland Department of Labor's Office of Adult Education and Literacy Services would like to thank everyone who participated in or contributed to the 7th Virtual Training Institute (VTI). VTI 7.0 ran for four days from Monday, February 13th, through Thursday, February 16th. During that time, VTI showcased 21 webinar sessions from close to 30 thought leaders in adult education from Maryland and around the world. In total, VTI 7.0 boasted 1,150 participants across the four day span. Read more... 
  • What is the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA)? 

    MORA is a federally funded program overseen by the Maryland Department of Human Services. MORA does not serve clients directly: instead, the program directs funds to a network of contracted providers who help newly arrived refugees establish stable lives in the U.S. and prepare for productive lives in their new country.

    Examples of services MORA provides include:

    Learn more about MORA and the resettlement agency affiliates, community colleges, state agencies, and non-profit organizations the program works with here.

  • International Mother Language Day was February 21 - 

    The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed throughout the world since 2000.  

    Language Diversity in Maryland: Overall, Maryland has a relatively sizable population, with approximately 2.23 million households within its borders. While most residents speak English, it isn’t every resident’s primary language. Approximately 19% of residents aged five and up speak a language other than English at home. Considering there’s an average of 2.64 people per household, that works out to around 1.12 million residents speaking a non-English language at home. Further, about 6.35% of the population is considered to have limited English proficiency. As a result, they rely heavily on their primary language instead of English, causing a broad selection of languages to be well represented in the state.

    Learn more…                                                                                                                                                                                                        ______________________________  

Benchmarks of Success Newsletters

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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 January 30, 2023. The next meeting is scheduled for March 27, 2023. 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 held its most recent meeting on February 14, 2023. The group's next meeting is to be determined. 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 February 9, 2023. The group's next meeting is scheduled for March 9, 2023. 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 August 8, 2022. The next meeting of the Committee is to be determined. 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 February 15, 2023 and has the next meeting scheduled for March 19, 2023. You can learn more about the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee’s activities here.


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