Perez’s lengthy public service experience and extensive record of collaboration with businesses to address critical workforce development needs makes him uniquely qualified to head the U.S. Department of Labor.
During Perez’s time in Maryland, we worked directly with him to institute a set of reforms to strengthen Maryland’s workforce system that helped both businesses and workers. Perez worked to expand training for those already on the job, engage business and industry in workforce training policy, and connect unemployed and underemployed workers to much-needed education, training and, most importantly, good jobs.
In the past, a college education or advanced training beyond high school was not required to earn a decent living and to meet the demands of the labor market. But in today’s economy, education and training beyond high school is the difference between poverty and family-sustaining careers. Perez understood that educating and preparing workers for skilled jobs would not only help Maryland’s families, but also its employers and its economy.
In the next five years, nearly 80 percent of the jobs in Maryland will require some skills or credentials beyond a high school education. Most of them will be positions that require more than a high school diploma, but not necessarily a four-year degree. These are the jobs we are struggling to fill here in Maryland, and we know it’s the same for other employers throughout the country. If we can’t find people with the latest technical credentials to fill those positions, we cannot expand or compete. We cannot create new jobs.
Perez worked with us and other employers in Maryland to ensure industry-driven solutions to this critical issue. Under his leadership, the state convened hundreds of businesses from health care, manufacturing, construction, biotech, and information technology to develop the partnerships needed to address the problem.
He ensured that workforce development efforts were inclusive of all Marylanders, and fit the needs of both workers and businesses – whether it was re-training ex-offenders transitioning out of jail and into a new life; helping qualified foreign-born nurses get licensed so they could help meet immediate hospital needs; or strengthening Science Technology, Engineering and Math education for workers in Maryland’s high tech sector.
He took a creative and innovative approach to expanding training options for dislocated workers, veterans, and low-wage, low-skilled and non-English speaking adults, including those who needed better reading, math or English-language skills.
Perez brought together all those with a vested interest in a better skilled workforce – businesses, workers, educators, union leaders and community and support service providers – to find solutions that were good for workers, helped businesses grow, and strengthened Maryland’s economy. With his experience, we know he can make a substantial impact on ensuring that our nation’s workforce is well trained, highly skilled and second to none in the world. We look forward to his confirmation, and to the leadership he will bring to this effort in Washington, D.C.
Robertson is the former chairman and Peterson is the former vice chairman of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board (Maryland).
Note: Robertson is the president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare in Rockville, Maryland. Peterson is president of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Their opinions do not represent official positions of either institution.