Stimulus Is About More Than Size – It’s About Impact


Congress and President Trump have approved a $2.2 trillion stimulus package which is nearly half the spending of our entire annual federal budget. Amazingly, this will just be the beginning of stimulus spending.  The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, recently stated “This isn’t even a stimulus package,” he said. “It is emergency relief. Emergency relief. That’s what this is.”

Given the focus on infrastructure over the last few years, it appears that any stimulus package will include the infrastructure industry and its propensity for shovel ready projects that can start immediately. To be clear, these sorts of large stimulus packages are a good thing in response to our current economic state; they are necessary but not sufficient.

As policy makers debate the appropriate policy levers to exercise and the amounts those levers will make available to states and communities, they must remember that how stimulus funds are distributed and how those funds are tracked while the projects are ongoing will influence the desired economic impact.

Too often, the economic benefits promised by stimulus spending do not actually accrue to the impacted communities or their residents.  Stimulus legislation must require funds be disseminated through a transparent process with participation goals for local and diverse vendors and residents to achieve equitable distribution of stimulus funds and the desired community impact.

The impact of development is generally measured by project or investment size – for example, an $800M stadium project or a $1T infrastructure package. But as we seek to recover from this crisis the size of the stimulus package can’t be the full story. These capital injections must be able to tell us how investments built more than just a stadium, a bridge, or a highway. They must also catalyze communities to employ diverse contractors and vendors, and ensure individuals from impacted communities can upskill, work and earn a good wage. While these will be stated goals of the capital projects these outcomes don’t just happen. They require intentionality and transparency.

The recipients of federal stimulus funds should have specific goals regarding their engagement of the local workforce and local and diverse vendors, and by requiring regular, transparent reporting on their progress toward those goals it will ensure:

  • Stimulus Spending Benefits the Community. Set local workforce engagement goals and have an accountability framework to incent the recipients of federal funds to engage local communities and encourage investment in workforce development programs that will build pathways to economic opportunity. 
  • Equitable Distribution of Economic Stimulus: Small businesses often lack the opportunity to participate in large capital work. By incenting local and diverse vendor participation legislators will ensure a more equitable distribution of resources beyond large prime contractors to the vendors most closely connected to the community most likely to attract and retain a diverse, local workforce.
  • Real Time Data Guides Decision-Making:  Collecting real-time data will provide project administrators with the ability to make more-informed hiring and resource decisions. Real-time data will allow project managers and policy-makers throughout the life of a project to evaluate a project’s progress toward its goals and to engage the small business community and workforce infrastructure to achieve better outcomes.
  • The Elimination of Fraud and Wage Theft: Fraud and wage theft exist on projects across America. By requiring a platform for regular reporting during the project, legislators will be able to track payments between contractors ensuring economic stimulus dollars are making their way to the entities doing the work, and will also be able to track payroll records to ensure compliance in wage amounts and root out wage theft to some of our most vulnerable communities.

Local and minority contractors and businesses must have the opportunity to rebuild our communities and employ hardworking Americans from where these projects will take place. Contractors and subcontractors should be expected to utilize local hiring preferences and subcontractors should receive prompt payment when services are rendered.  Effective enforcement tools must be legislated to ensure transparency, build trust, root out fraud, and track the impact of the localized impact of the stimulus.

Setting goals and incorporating accountability mechanisms isn’t completely novel, but the scale of the proposed stimulus spending creates a unique opportunity to catalyze recovery in our impacted communities. We must build on what’s been done before, provide greater guidance to entities that will receive funds to achieve consistency and transparency, allow for communities hardest hit by the effects of the COVID-19 to benefit from the stimulus and ultimately enable American citizens the opportunity to see the economic impact of their tax dollars at work. 

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All Your Projects on a Single Platform

Technology is supposed to make your construction projects faster, easier and cheaper – Right? Except that every task has its own technology application. So, now you and your subcontractors have to log on to multiple systems, learn different programs that don’t talk to each other, and end up spending more time than you did before all this technology made your life easier! For example, when it comes to tracking, managing and reporting on business expenditures and workforce efforts, you can often use multiple software applications, at least one internal compliance manager on your staff, and an external consultant to pull it all together for your monthly reports.

SkillSmart’s InSight platform can help connect the dots, and begin to make life a whole lot easier. InSight combines your ability to capture business and workforce data for all of your projects in a single platform. It also pushes the data entry process down to each of the subcontractors on every tier so that all the data rolls up to the GC to track, manage and report – providing much greater transparency and accuracy into the entire process… and make it easier to manage. It also provides dynamic reporting so that you can easily check your dashboard for any and all projects to see how much progress is being made. The InSight platform can also pull in data from your other internal applications reducing time and errors. Finally, it can generate the reports you need with one click.

We believe that doing the right thing shouldn’t make your life and job more difficult – so we’re working hard to making things simpler for you where we can.

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Tracking The Impact – Telling Your Project’s Story

Many new developments and construction projects are compelled to track how many small and diverse businesses are working on their project along with how many local and diverse residents are employed by the contractors working on the project. Much of the time, this tracking and reporting is done because the projects have some public participation – tax credits, public financing, land use approvals – but there are also projects that track and use this information because the recognize it increases the value of their project. Tracking these efforts are important because they can help to quantify the economic value that these projects have in their community. Unfortunately, this process has always been difficult and cumbersome. Often it has just been a compliance effort on the part of the projects and jurisdictions – a box that needs to be checked. The broader, very important, story is rarely told.

SkillSmart’s new InSight platform has been designed to achieve both of these functions – simply and dynamically meet the compliance requirements and provide usable data to tell the exciting story of the project impact.

As important, this data and associated tools help developers, GCs, and subs to make better decisions, hire stronger partners and employ better workers.

Now it’s easier for construction projects to get and stay compliant with their business and workforce requirements, and for all projects to demonstrate why they are beneficial for their communities by strengthening local businesses and residents.

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What happens when your employees leave and there is no one to replace them?

skillsmart for manufacturingIncreasing manufacturing jobs will create significant economic benefits for communities across the U.S. There will be more positions available at good wages, addressing America’s issue with an over-saturation of low paying jobs, as well as addressing unemployment in both rural areas and smaller cities. However, industry experts also tell the story of the challenges ahead before we can reap the benefits of manufacturing growth.

The “Baby Boomers” have done well, building economic growth and sustainable careers in many middle skill, middle class jobs like manufacturing. This generation worked and benefited from the most prosperous era in American history, and now they are retiring from the workforce in huge numbers as more and more reach retirement age every day.

This trend is having a dramatic impact on America’s skilled labor pool because there is no one there to replace them.

The impact is even more dramatic in the manufacturing sector because these once-coveted jobs are now viewed more negatively by younger generations, despite significant opportunity for career growth and strong wages. Manufacturing jobs are often misunderstood and seen as “dirty” and “dead-end” positions, and not as great career opportunities requiring an array of technical skills.

Additionally, “Millennials” often look at college as the most logical – if not the only – road to financial stability with little regard for these more “traditional” career pathways. As a result manufacturers are struggling to fill the positions they currently have without even considering additional jobs from increased growth.

Statistics paint a gloomy picture of the generational impact on the manufacturing sector, and the resulting widening of the skills gap. Cisco Senior Business Development Manager of North America Steve Gansen recently presented troubling numbers about the workforce of the manufacturing industry.

According to Gansen, one third of current manufacturing workers are over the age of 50, and more distressing is the fact that the average age of highly skilled employees is 56. With the average retirement age for manufacturers staying at 65, there is a significant shortage of individuals available to fill these existing positions within the next decade, which doesn’t even take the challenge of newly created jobs into account at all.

In fact, Gansen’s research led him to project that by the year 2020 America could be facing a deficit of 875,000 highly skilled manufacturing professionals. Gansen’s projections suggest that the aging workforce will create a widening skills gap that will cause over 2 million vacant manufacturing positions without a skilled workforce to fill it.

Increasing manufacturing jobs is certainly positive, as it will help modernize this nation’s infrastructure as well as create significant economic opportunity. However, the data suggest that the results may not be that straightforward.

Within the next decade approximately 2.7 million “Baby Boomers” will retire, thereby ensuring that millions of positions will already be available without a ready supply of workers to fill them.

According to a report by Deloitte, 82% of US executives believe the upcoming skills gap will impact their implementation of new technologies and increase productivity in their manufacturing operations. Therefore, we must not only focus on bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, but also pay equal attention to bringing manufacturing skills back to America.

This is where companies like SkillSmart can take an active role in shaping the future. SkillSmart’s role not only as a skills-matching company, but one which helps job seekers acquire the skills necessary to achieve success, can be integral in helping address this emerging reality.

SkillSmart’s community-based commitment provides a strong foundation to help organizations in the process of solving a local skills deficiency. For example, SkillSmart recently helped MGM National Harbor develop their talent pipeline for their new resort. SkillSmart’s relationship with MGM not only helped MGM create a pipeline of highly skilled employees, but it helped Prince George’s Community College refine a modern noncredit curriculum which was highly attractive to individuals who were seeking employment.

This same strategy is at work in SkillSmart’s other client relationships, including with an NBA franchise in the process of building a new stadium that has had a positive influence on other aspects of a local community. SkillSmart has helped inform the local community around the skills required to obtain a construction job for the project.

SkillSmart is also helping educate prospective employees around additional requirements or certifications, such as union membership, so that these individuals have the skills to contribute with this employer on this project, and with other employers and projects in the future.

We are proud to have a product that can help solve the skills gap, and SkillSmart makes a commitment to every community in which we work to use services and technology to help increase economic opportunity for residents and employers alike.

The data has shown that there will be at least 2.7 million positions available within the manufacturing field in the next decade, and we look forward to working with the manufacturing industry to help build the skilled workforce that can that can fill all of those positions… and more!

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How to Prepare the American Workforce for the Manufacturing Surge

At the end of February, President Trump sat down with the CEO’s of several Fortune 500 companies. After this meeting, Trump stated that these leaders have committed to helping the President bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States. This promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to America is nothing new for Trump; in fact some might argue that Trump won the election on this campaign promise.

However, whether or not the President does his best to follow through on this promise of “25 million new positions” there are other factors that may dictate if his goal is achievable. Recently, Bloomberg’s Andre Tartar tried to articulate this message within his article Factory Skills Gap Could Spell Trouble for Trump’s Jobs Plan. While the President’s intention may well be to help establish a strong manufacturing industry, there may not be the talent available to bring back this industry.

In order to understand the difficulties in revitalizing the manufacturing industry one must understand, and acknowledge the “skills gap” currently within America. Bloomberg partnered with Randstad Sourceright to conduct a research project surveying over 400 global HR executives to analyze their struggles of creating and filling positions, and how they believe this information may project forward.

While 41% of these executives believe that they will be hiring new staff members this calendar year, these executives foresee it being difficult to continue at this hiring rate because of the lack of prospective employees with the skills necessary to perform the tasks needed to work within their respective companies. Within the survey, HR executives ranked “talent scarcity” as having a greater concern within future business than “robotics, freelancers, automation, and foreign talent.” About 80% of these employers stated that they foresee a shortage of sufficiently skilled workers will affect their company’s success in the next 12 months. These statistics bring us back to the difficulty of creating millions of infrastructure jobs within the next four years.

While creating jobs can be rather difficult, the data seems to indicate that filling jobs may be a more difficult task than creating jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released information that mirrored this sentiment when they showed that there were 324,000 manufacturing job openings this past November, which is almost an 100,000 opening increase from the previous November.

This data is rather troubling because it seems to indicate that the gap between the number of individuals who have the skilled required of these jobs and the demand for those skills is increasing, so one must wonder what can we do to help bridge the skills gap to create a more sustainable workforce. This is precisely what we at SkillSmart are working to address, our goal is to build a pipeline of skilled workers.

The greater Washington DC region, like many other regions throughout the country, has many positions that remain unfilled. A case study for this issue was our partnership with MGM National Harbor. Being one of the first casino resorts in the capital region, MGM recognized the challenge of building a strong workforce to fill the 4000 positions they were seeking to hire. Adding to this challenge was the condition that MGM was to hire a certain quota of individuals from within the county.

SkillSmart partnered with MGM to build a local workforce pipeline by deploying its skills-matching platform to more clearly articulate the skills MGM was seeking to hire and to then effectively connect job seekers with local education resources linked to providing those specific skills through partnership with local education providers, like community colleges. This built a more skilled applicant pool resulting in more successful hiring outcomes and higher rates of retention while providing a clear path for local job seekers to acquire the skills needed to become successful employees of MGM.

SkillSmart is proud to be part of the effort to help solve the skills gap within the Washington DC region as well as the other communities in which we work. This same approach can address the skills gap to grow the workforce and help fill the 25 million infrastructure and manufacturing jobs. Creating the jobs alone is not sufficient. An equal focus needs to be placed on providing local job seekers in communities across the nation with a transparent mechanism to acquire the skills that the manufacturers are looking to hire. Only through this approach will businesses and local economies grow.

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Do courses really lead to a career?

computer skills needed in the workplace

As we approach the last weeks of Summer many of us are dealing with either an end or a beginning. Many Spring graduates put off the inevitable task of finding a job for the allure of travel, being with friends or just getting some rest after school. Meanwhile, many students were working jobs or enjoying summertime in preparation for the upcoming school year. In either case, a successful outcome for the next step of finding employment or beginning a successful school year requires a focus on the skills that are needed.

Why Focus on Skills?

The nature of work is changing every day – technology is making some jobs more accessible and is eliminating others. The idea of having a single job for your career is increasingly unlikely, and while this may seem scary, it is also really exciting. Acquiring and being able to demonstrate more skills will allow you to increase your value in the workforce and transition more easily from one position to another.

Entering the Workforce?

As individuals begin to enter the workforce and develop a successful career path, the first step is to understand the skills needed in the workplace. Once you know the skills that are needed, you must then inventory the activities that you’ve undertaken to determine which of those skills you possess and find the most effective way to communicate those skills to the employer that most interests you. It is important to remember during this process that you can acquire skills by doing many things in addition to attending school – military experience, volunteer activities, and other jobs can provide you with the skills that are needed in the workplace. It is also important to connect your experiences directly to the skills that the job requires, not just put together a laundry list of activities and hope that the person reviewing your information can find what they need. Employers are looking for people who have the right skills – be clear and be specific in order to make yourself stand apart from others.

Going Back to School?

If you’re getting to go back to school – whether high school, college, or training programs – you will inevitably look at a required course or activity and question why that is necessary. There are many foundational skills like basic math, effective communication or teamwork that virtually every employer is seeking. Ideally, your school or education provider is closely linked to employers and is ensuring that the curriculum you are required to take matches closely the specific skills that employers are seeking. However, it is also important for you to learn and understand the skills that are required for jobs you may be seeking. If you are unsure, you should meet with your institution’s guidance or career counseling professionals to see if they can point you in the right direction. If that doesn’t get you what you need, then you can reach out to employers and ask what they’re looking for. You are using valuable time and spending significant dollars to get education, and it is important to know that you are getting what you need for your success.

Next Steps

Whether your objective is to get a job now or you’re going back to school and planning for the future, it is an exciting time. By focusing on skills can you better understand what you need to be successful no matter what you want to achieve.

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Campaign 2016: Want to Really Grow the Economy? Focus on skills.

2016 election campaign: focus on skills

We’re at halftime between the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and most people really want to know what the next president plans to do for them:

“How do I get a better job, make more money, raise a family, buy a house, take care of my aging parents or save for college?”

Both Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton say they will improve the economy. They talk about tax policy reform, trade and the global economy, entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. These are all important topics to be sure, but a long way from a core issue for Americans: our jobs.

What do you do when you want to grow the economy and make life better for working people? You focus on jobs and skills.

A lack of focus on these two issues has a direct impact on real people, and keeps our economy from reaching its full potential.

For example, from 2009 to 2012, the advanced manufacturing industry in New England should have grown at a rate of 12%. Instead, it only grew 7% because there were 18,000 jobs that went unfilled. In Maryland, there are more than 18,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs today – nationally, there are over 200,000.

Everyday across this country, there are people making less money than they should because they don’t have the right skills, leaving companies without the skilled workers they need to grow, and leaving our economy without the infusion of dollars from these workers’ tax contributions.

Companies and people are making less money and the economy suffers, not because there isn’t opportunity, but because no one can take advantage of the opportunities that already exist!

How do you solve this problem? You make a process that everyone can understand and use – a process that clearly identifies the skills that employers need; one that makes it clear to employees and job seekers the exact skills required to get good jobs. And it must be a demand-driven process – that is, it must start with the employers because they have the jobs needing to be filled.

Using platforms like SkillSmart, employers can identify the specific skills they need for each position they have. Employees and job seekers can then build individual profiles based on their work and life experiences to see how closely their skills match to those positions. Additionally – and, maybe, most importantly – education and training content can be tailored to meet those industry-specific skills needs.

Too often candidates spend more money for education and training because it sounds like the right answer without knowing which education actually needs to be provided.

The technology now exists to align local, regional and national markets to employers, job seekers, educators and resources so industries like cybersecurity, manufacturing, and others can fill more contracts, while workers can earn better salaries and education resources can be used more efficiently.

This new approach won’t solve every problem, but if every company can find skilled workers, and every job seeker can learn the skills the markets need, then we will go a long way to answering the questions that Americans are most concerned about everyday, and especially during this election season.

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Why More is Less in Hiring


“If you want to recruit good employees you need to post your job descriptions in as many places as possible, get high click through rates and get as many resumes as possible.”

Well, 427,000 resumes are posted on Monster each week and yet companies that advertise open positions on Monster hire fewer than 1% of their employees from that source. Plus, for every corporate job opening there are more than 250 resumes received, and fewer than five people are brought in to interview.*

When it comes to hiring, more is not better… it’s just more.

The logic of the current hiring process is stunning – if you couldn’t find a good candidate in a large pile of resumes, it must be that the pile isn’t big enough, so you should pay more to get an even bigger pile of resumes. Does that make sense?

Greater numbers do not translate to better candidates or help you hire them faster… In fact it usually takes longer because you have to wade through more unqualified candidates in the hopes of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. Even worse, using arbitrary screening questions like “years of experience” eliminates potentially strong candidates before anyone ever sees them, just to try and make the big pile smaller.

Our solution at SkillSmart helps employers identify the specific skills they are looking for and then helps interested job seekers articulate where in their previous experiences they’ve acquired and demonstrated those skills through the use of a skills profile.

This process allows employers to be clearer about what they need while applicants have a new mechanism that allows them to clearly state how their education and experiences connect to the skills the position requires for success.

In one quick glance, a hiring manager or HR professional can see how each candidate meets their needs.

It also has the added benefit of providing each job seeker with a sense of how they match a given position before they ever submit a profile, resume or application.

These tools provide smaller numbers of results yet better-qualified candidates who have a clearer understanding of what is required for each position they may be interested in pursuing.

It is time debunk the myth that more resumes, applicants and “click-throughs” will help build a better workforce. It costs more money, takes more time and creates greater frustration for everyone involved. It’s hard to get off the “hamster-wheel” of trying to get more and more, but it can be done while increasing the satisfaction of the people hiring, applying and getting hired.

Learn how we can ease your hiring efforts.

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 *View source here
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Can a resume still get you a job?


courses on resume writingWrite a great resume! This is the cry that people hear when they say they’re interested in finding a new job. High schools and colleges even teach courses on resume writing. But is that really the best option? Will it get you hired? Is that really what employers are looking for?

Sixty-one percent of the American public believes there is a skills gap, and 90 percent of employers agree.

If that’s the problem, how does describing your work and education experience show an employer that you have the skills they need? It doesn’t. In reality, it can create more confusion as you try to describe the jobs you’ve had in the terms you think a prospective employer wants to see.

It is increasingly obvious that employers need to better describe the specific skills they’re looking to hire, and that job seekers need to be able to show that they have the skills employers need. This requires a new approach.

Too often, job descriptions – and as a result, resumes – ask for experiences that are supposed to represent something else. For example, there is too much weight placed on what your last job was or where you went to college, rather than what you actually did in those places.

The first step is to develop a skills-based job profile. This enables an employer to take, for example, a four-page job description and translate it into a clear, condensed job profile with a specific number of prerequisites (usually 4-6) and a specific number of skills (usually 10-20). Job seekers can build their own skills profiles and match to opportunities based on criteria established by the employer.

Can a resume still help you get a job? Yes, but probably not as often or as effectively as those resume writing classes would have you believe.

Right now employers and job seekers are each working independently to guess at what the other is looking for, which contributes to the skills gap and a great deal of frustration for everyone involved in the process.

By matching work, education and other life experiences directly to a skills-based job profile developed by an employer, job seekers have a transparent way to demonstrate their qualifications. After 500 years, the resume needs some disruption. It is time to refocus our attention on skills. A job profile creates a common language to connect employers and jobseekers – and it levels the playing field in hiring. This makes for a more transparent process and achieves more successful hiring outcomes.

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Smart talk with SkillSmart

During this past year you’ve seen and heard more from us at SkillSmart, but we’ve yet to introduce ourselves properly. So, in this month’s newsletter we’d like to spend a few minutes sharing a little of the SkillSmart story and team with you.

It’s All About Community

Jason Green and I met when I was running for local elected office and he worked on my campaign while home for the summer from Washington University in St. Louis. We were then, and still are today, both keenly interested in communities and helping bring them together.

During the next decade, I was elected and moved from the biotech sector to the public sector and back to the private sector while Jason went on to law school and into national politics and then the federal government. We stayed in touch looking for the right opportunity to work together to address unmet needs in the community.

Three years ago we were discussing our work and volunteering activities, comparing notes to how often we were both hearing the following from friends and colleagues: their frustrations about finding people with the right skills for jobs; their inability to connect with good job opportunities because they didn’t know what an employer was looking for; their surprise that people coming out of school were unable to move successfully into the workplace.

None of this is new to you, but at the same time it was a topic gaining attention. We found ourselves reading more and more stories about communities with high unemployment while employers in those communities being unable to fill their job openings.

Given our backgrounds we knew how to address this problem for one employer, or one community, but wanted to solve this issue in a greater and more scalable way. In June 2013, after about a year of meetings, research, and conversations, we formed SkillSmart with the mission to empower employers and individuals to maximize their potential through the use of skills.

Our Team

Once founded, we immediately brought on Kyle Friis who’s been leading our research efforts to understand and define products that respond to the markets and skills requirements of employers. We also brought on another Washington University alum, Bob Sholtes, as our software architect and developer.

We set out to better connect employers, jobseekers, and educators. We developed different product iterations, we ran focus groups, and we combined the feedback into an iterative development process. As we met more people and organizations, we were able to help a client manage two job fairs in two different communities. We helped better connect them to the people in the community and help potential employees better understand the employer’s hiring needs.

As we started to do more client work, John Dillow from joined the team and added to our understanding of workforce needs. We continued to refine the our platform to be more responsive to employer and job seeker needs. We also undertook a contract to analyze and provide recommendations for the workforce development efforts of one of the nation’s largest suburban counties.

In August, we hired our 6th employee, Sofia Castro, who had previously interned for us while she was a student at the Universities at Shady Grove.

The team part of the SkillSmart storyOur efforts

In February 2015 we signed our first contract with MGM Resorts International to help build its workforce pipeline and hire employees in National Harbor, MD and Springfield, MA. We worked through the summer with MGM to identify the appropriate skills, and link those skills to educational opportunities at local schools like Prince Georges Community College (PGCC). In August, we went live!

Within six weeks of going live with MGM National Harbor, we have more than 2,000 jobseekers who have built their individual profiles, posted 72 different job categories and their associated skills, and have a number of students enrolled in courses at PGCC.

We have recently entered into a pilot project focused on cybersecurity jobs and skills with employers and education providers in Maryland We’re also working with business, community partners and educators in Springfield, MA.

We know that in order for businesses, jobseekers, and educators to be successful it requires connecting all of the resources in a community to work together seamlessly and transparently. Jason and I knew of the importance of community 13 years ago, and we have found that it is a key building block to growing our economy.

Now you know a little more about the SkillSmart team – we have a great team, goal and mission and we are committed to working with you to make your organization and employees successful.

Talk to you next month!

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