Blog post by Larry Richardson
Larry Richardson is the vice president of government affairs at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. He is an attorney who brings over 25 years of lobbying experience to the Chamber where he advocates on behalf of the Maryland business community to grow jobs and reduce regulations.
“Education is the foundation upon which we build our future.” I know, it may sound cliché, but it’s true.
Education at every level has the ability to shape and influence a student’s mind, personality, philosophy, and social skills. Not only does the Maryland Chamber acknowledge the importance of education, we fight on behalf of institutions and students through our efforts before the General Assembly.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, the Maryland Chamber government affairs team supported legislation at the high school and higher education levels. We lobbied in support of legislation that would have enhanced a business’ ability to hire college students as interns. Internships can provide these students the ability to connect their classroom experiences to the workplace. They also further help them learn the soft skills needed to thrive in a work environment. Without these skills, it is more challenging to navigate team environments and to master the communication necessary to excel.
Another area of focus for the Maryland Chamber is helping to change the institutional mindset of federal agencies, including OPM and NIST, when it comes to defense contracting. A four-year degree should not be the automatic educational mandate. There is no question that, in many cases, today’s community college graduates will easily possess the technical and educational skills and knowledge to meet a federal project’s parameters, and their inclusion will create a much broader pool of qualified candidates.
We have taken our focus one step further through our Maryland Chamber Foundation. Through the Foundation, we spotlight education and workforce development initiatives in Maryland that provide opportunities for students, of all backgrounds, and help support and develop new programs to further enhance young people’s future.
We are heavily involved in the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, program and currently have 11 members who are partners. We have worked with Governor Larry Hogan’s office and participated in his P-TECH roundtable meeting two weeks ago to encourage member businesses to get involved. For details on our involvement, head to the Maryland Chamber Foundation page dedicated to the program.
Our team is also researching bringing teacher externships to Maryland. These professional development opportunities connect the classroom to the workplace, allowing teachers to align direct trends and skill requirements with their subject matter and also bring workplace application into the classroom.
When you were a student I know you asked, “Am I ever going to use this?”
This is the question teacher externships answer. Teachers can show their students how useful their hard skills will be in the workplace as well as educate them on the soft skills they will need.
We remain committed to the goal of affordable access to quality educational and skills-training systems that prepare students of all ages for college or career. We constantly strive to meet the needs of Maryland’s trades and businesses to have the ability to hire and retain workers with the needed skills and qualifications. We believe education and workforce development are part of the solution to keep Maryland moving forward.