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Companies Need Workers to Fill Mid-Skill Jobs in Maryland

Maryland is expected to face shortages of workers to fill jobs requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree - mid-skill jobs in Maryland that will make up the biggest share of openings over the next several years, according to a national study.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland has a widening gap between work force credentials and the so-called “middle skills” needed for jobs that will account for 42 percent of all openings by 2016, reported the Washington-based National Skills Coalition, a worker training advocacy group.

The coalition projects more than 434,000 job openings in that category by then.

So what jobs classify as middle skill jobs? They are police officers, firefighters, medical technicians and therapists, electricians and mechanics. Nearly half of the jobs in Maryland are classified as “middle skill,” but just over one-third of Maryland workers likely have the minimum credentials to fill them, the report said.

The coalition has reported similar findings in each of the handful of states it has studied since 2007, when it released a national study that mirrored training versus job growth patterns.

“Even as the job numbers get worse, the situation still continues - there are still employers looking for people to fill jobs,” said Jessie Hogg Leslie, a senior regional field director for the coalition. “Even in states that have high-skilled jobs, about half the jobs are still middle skills.”

The findings will be unveiled during an event today with Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is expected to announce plans to help workers navigate a network of existing training programs and funding. During the event at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, O’Malley plans to discuss access to education and training beyond high school.

The goal is to create a “larger and better talent pool for Maryland businesses, as it relates to the recovery,” said Eric Seleznow, executive director of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board, a policy advisory board under the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown launched Skills2Compete Maryland at Prince George’s Community College Tuesday, an initiative designed to increase the skills of Maryland’s workforce so it can fill the abundance of these “middle-skill” jobs that make up the largest portion of the state’s job market.

The goal of the skills initiative is to ensure that every Marylander has access to a two-year education, or credentials and skills that are equivalent to one, after graduating high school.

The program will require various state agencies and partners of the Skills2Compete initiative to assist Marylanders in accessing career centers, community colleges, apprenticeships and private career schools so they can gain skills, according to an O’Malley press release.

“The truth of the matter is there are jobs available in Maryland that are not all Ph.D.’s,” O’Malley said. “If we can uplift the skills that our people have with that additional couple of years after high school, then they can meet and fill those jobs that are actually available in our state.”

The announcement of Skills2Compete Maryland is O’Malley’s latest effort to create job opportunities for Marylanders. Job creation and retention has been a priority for his administration this legislative session.

Maryland reported a 7.5 percent unemployment rate in December, a record high, but still lower than the national rate of 9.7 percent reported in January.

“Jobs and skills along with homeownership are the building blocks to a stronger, growing, more diverse and more upwardly mobile middle class,” O’Malley said. “If we’re the first state to figure out how to do this, the opportunities come to us many, many times over.”