Mayor Catherine Pugh today rebutted a report from the Office of the Inspector General that questioned data collection on the WorkBaltimore job fair, offering a summary from the event and noting it was actually 30 days, instead of one, with nearly 200 workshops.
Holding up her administration’s report on last year’s inaugural event, copies of which were distributed to reporters at the mayor’s weekly press briefing, Pugh said there was a line outside the convention center of people seeking jobs on the day participating companies gathered to meet applicants.
“People were actually crying because this is the first time that something like this had occurred in Baltimore City,” she said.
The report from the Department of Human Resources (DHR) said 2,072 citizens came to the fair on Sept. 27, 2017. From Aug. 25 to Sept. 25 of last year, 180 workshops were held on job-readiness skills such as resume writing, interviewing and critical thinking. More than 500 people participated in those sessions.
Only 128 attendees completed a survey 90 days after the event, and of those, 12 percent said they received and accepted a job offer, 7 percent said they were already working with an employer they met at the fair and 8 percent said they received a job offer but declined it.
Pugh said she was hoping to see a rise in those numbers from this year’s job fair with the addition of seminars on expunging criminal records, and that the city would look for more companies willing to hire people coming out of the prison system.
“We have 10,000 that come back to our city every hear,” she said. “And to not be able to employ them creates a problem for us as it relates to crime and other issues.”
Overall, 88 percent of the 101 employers that participated in the 2017 event said they thought the event was beneficial, and the same number said they would do it again.
In the Inspector General report, released by Isabel Mercedes Cumming’s office yesterday, investigators said they could not determine how successful the job fair was because there was “insufficient data available.”
As part of an overall look at DHR, investigators also found instances of harassment from department leaders and raised questions about the effectiveness of smoking cessation mascots Smokey and Leaf, while noting that thousands were paid to the daughter of a DHR head and her friends to portray the characters.
Quinton Herbert, who took over the DHR after the former head, Mary Talley, resigned following the release of the inspector general’s initial findings, told The Sun substantial changes have already been made.
Pugh said her office has been able to make the job fair, which the inspector general said cost $425,000 in public and private funds, more cost effective, likening the process to constructing a car and learning you don’t need certain parts after you’ve build the first model.
The mayor was conciliatory when asked if Mercedes Cumming got the report wrong, saying the inspector general wasn’t in her position during last year’s event and saw the value in the fair after attending this year.
As for a question on election ballots that would make the inspector general separate from the mayor’s office, Pugh does not see any problems.
“I think the inspector general should have purview over making sure that we are not wasting government resources,” she said. “I’d like to see all of the government agencies come under, yes.”