The 2012 Brookings Institution report, Building from Strength: Creating Opportunity in Greater Baltimore’s Next Economy, argues that the manufacturing industry in Baltimore has long been recognized for offering good-paying jobs to those without a postsecondary education. Once known for steel processing, and aircraft and ship building, the Baltimore region has lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs since 2007. Although these industrial jobs continue to decline, the Brookings report argues the retirement of aging manufacturing employees alone will provide thousands of job openings in the years to come.
According to the Brookings report, Baltimore area machinists earn a median wage of almost $45,800, even though fewer than four percent have a four-year degree. The challenge is how best to prepare new workers with the training necessary to fill those job openings. The Brookings report cautioned that the Baltimore region lacks an adequate pipeline of skilled workers in manufacturing to thrive now or in the future.
The Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative (of which the Abell Foundation is a member) identified the Chicago-based Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC) as an established, effective, manufacturing training organization that was interested in replicating its program model in Baltimore. Over the past three years, JARC has enrolled 101 people into its Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinist training, with 79 completing and 78 being placed into jobs, earning an average starting wage of $13.54 an hour. More than 90 percent of those placed into jobs have remained employed for six months. For the welding program, 71 enrolled into training, with 50 completing and 48 being placed into jobs, earning on average $13.82 an hour. Six-month job retention rates for this program also surpass 90 percent. The program provides job opportunities for the hard-to-employ: last year, 53 percent of CNC trainees and 88 percent of welding trainees had criminal records.
With funding from the Abell Foundation and others, JARC began its inaugural training class in May 2015. The welding program has enrolled 13 trainees, the CNC program has enrolled seven trainees, and the fundamentals program has enrolled two trainees. Of the individuals served, 70 percent are ex-offenders.
To date, the welding program has placed four trainees in full-time employment with health benefits at an average starting wage of $17.58/hour. All four of the welders placed completed industry-recognized certification