The Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. (AAWDC) recently received a $9.9 million Ready to Work Partnership Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to establish the Maryland Tech Connection (MTC). MTC is a partnership of 59 organizations throughout central Maryland, covering 12 counties and Baltimore City.

MTC’s partners include businesses, workforce, economic development, training and community partners along with the AARP Foundation and the Abell Foundation. The MTC also strategically partnered with four Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) Maryland Partnerships to expand on their existing efforts in the region.

They are CyberWorks, led by the AAWDC; Biotechnology Baltimore Strategic Industry Partnership, led by Baltimore BioWorks and BioTechnical Institute of Maryland; BioTrain, led by Montgomery College; and the Health Information Technology Strategic Industry Partnership, led by the Community College of Baltimore.

Through partner discussions, the MTC determined that Maryland businesses face a skills gap in middle- and high-skilled occupations within their industry. Due to the lack of qualified individuals in the area, many of these businesses have utilized H1-B visas to bring foreign workers into the states to fill the gaps. MTC created a training initiative to address the skills gap to help businesses in the industry remain competitive without the reliance on H1-B visas. This not only will provide businesses a pipeline of quality, skilled workers, but it will save businesses time and money spent on finding qualified workers outside of the country.

In addition to helping businesses gain the workforce they need to compete, the MTC also will assist Maryland’s long-term unemployed job seekers get back to work in high-growth industries. Job seekers will receive short-term occupational training aligned with the needs of the target industries along with several key support services, including benefits screening and application assistance, financial stability services and behavioral health services.

After completion of training, participants will receive hands-on work experience though work-and-learn opportunities with partner organizations. The hands-on work experience provided will be the key to participants securing full-time employment. While participants will gain immense knowledge during the training phase, the most valuable skills and the most desired skills from employers will be gained during the work experience portion of the initiative.

The grant allows for a six-month planning period to allow grantees to solidify contracts and strengthen partnerships. The AAWDC will officially launch MTC in the spring.

“This is a win-win for everyone. Businesses get the skilled workers they need, unemployed residents get back to work, and the economy improves as a result of both,” said Kirk Murray, president and CEO of the AAWDC. “We have already begun meeting with all of our partners to ensure MTC provides the training and services for job seekers to prepare them for the jobs that our employer partners say they need.”

To learn more about the MTC, send contact information to mtc@aawdc.org.