President Joe Biden on Jan. 30, 2023 visits Baltimore to kick off a project to replace the 150-year old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel with the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel.
President Joe Biden visits Baltimore to speak on new rail tunnel.

Baltimore is one of five U. S. cities that have been named “Workforce Hubs,” under a new federal initiative aimed at matching more Americans with “good jobs and careers.”

The program, announced by First Lady Jill Biden this week, is part of an effort by the Biden administration to ensure that all Americans can access the jobs created by its “Investing in America” agenda, designed to jumpstart the economy as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s scheduled to start this summer.

In a fact sheet on the White House website, the administration said it will work with local officials and others in the five hubs to train and connect Americans with jobs created by the passage of four laws that are pumping billions of dollars into the economy: the American Rescue Plan; the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

The other “Workforce Hubs” are: Phoenix, Arizona; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Augusta, Georgia. More may be named in later rounds.

Baltimore was chosen, officials said, largely because of its location on the East Coast and along the country’s busy Northeast rail corridor. 

“Baltimore’s position in the Northeast Corridor makes it essential to the administration’s efforts to upgrade and improve the nation’s rail service through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” according to the White House fact sheet.

“In January, President Biden visited Baltimore for the kickoff to replace the 150-year-old Frederick Douglass Tunnel—a project estimated to create 30,000 jobs that will be built with a project-labor agreement between Amtrak and the local building trades unions.

“The Baltimore region also has a burgeoning offshore wind industry, and the Maryland Department of Labor won a Good Jobs Challenge award to support the industry’s growth by implementing a new apprenticeship model in partnership with multiple employers and seven unions. The city is also using $30 million in American Rescue Plan funds to expand many workforce efforts, including credential programs to help workers get jobs in in-demand fields.”

According to the White House, the goal of Biden’s Investing in America agenda is “to help more students and workers — including women, people of color, youth, and others underrepresented in growing fields — advance in good jobs and careers” in industries mobilized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

This goal is consistent with the administration’s efforts “to build our workforce by ensuring every American – whether they go to college or not – will have equitable access to high-quality training, education and services that provide a path to a good career without leaving their community.”

Under the Workforce Hubs initiative, officials say, the federal government will collaborate with state and local officials, employers, unions, community colleges, high schools and other stakeholders to ensure that a diverse and skilled workforce is available to meet the demand for labor in the five focus regions named this week.

As part of the program, each Workforce Hub will work to secure private-sector and state and local commitments to expand pre-apprenticeship and Registered Apprenticeship programs; develop or expand career and technical education programs aligned to Investing in America jobs and careers, and provide supportive services that are critical to helping underrepresented students and workers succeed in that region.

 “These efforts will not only strengthen the five cities,” the White House said, “they will create models the administration will work to replicate with partners across the country,”

To complement the White House’s Workforce Hubs program, the U. S. Department of Labor has identified 16 more cities to receive in-depth technical assistance and support to start or “accelerate” workforce initiatives in those jurisdictions. Frederick, Maryland is one of the 16 cities named to benefit from that effort.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

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