(The Center Square) – Maryland’s workforce is getting a boost with a $1.2 million investment from the state’s Department of Labor.

The funding will be infused into the state’s nationally recognized Employment Advancement Right Now program, which works with businesses and workers to fill gaps in the labor force.

Labor’s Chief Strategy Officer Joseph Farren says it is a “tailor-made” public/private partnership to fill very specific skill gaps and personnel shortages.

“This is where business and government come together,” he told The Center Square. “Business tells us, ‘Hey, this is where our industry is going and we’re concerned we’re not going to have these types of workers because there just isn’t enough training for that future role. We step in with funding and train the workforce to meet that need.”

The current round of funding is earmarked for health care, renewable energy, automotive, information technology, and biotech industries, according to Farren. Ten partnerships with a total of 70 employers were chosen for grants ranging from $25,000 to $150,000. Grant awards were based on application merit through a rigorous, specific scoring process, he said.

With the infusion of funds into the program, nearly 400 workers will be trained to close gaps in critical industries, according to a labor department release.

“This is going to help specific industries and specific job roles in the workforce,” Farren said.

Cybersecurity is one of the fields that received money, and Farren said Maryland is a leader in that industry. Training dollars will be put toward training and information technology.

Farren pointed out that the specificity of EARN is what makes it so valuable.

“It isn’t a cookie-cutter program,” he said.

Farren said employers will be learning the details of the training programs.

“These are the jobs of today, but also the jobs of tomorrow,” he said. “The goal of EARN is to meet the need today, but also be thinking about how and where our economy is growing and making sure we’re investing in the economy of the future. That requires having a workforce that’s ready for that economy of the future.”

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