ABC, headquartered in Washington, DC., will forever be intrinsically linked to the city of Baltimore. In 1950, seven contractors gathered in Baltimore, to create an association based on the shared belief that construction projects should be awarded on merit to the most qualified and responsible low bidders. Now 65 years later, with 70 ABC chapters and nearly 21,000 chapter members nationwide, ABC of Greater Baltimore was faced with a challenge.
Last spring, when unrest was tearing apart the city of Baltimore, President of ABC Baltimore, Mike Henderson decided to survey the 70 ABC chapters across the country. Asking them what they thought about Baltimore before the riots and what they thought afterward. Their perception of Baltimore prior to the events of April was very positive. Most had been there before and had good memories. Their perception after the unrest was equally negative. It was clear that Baltimore’s brand, as a city, had been severely damaged.
ABC exists to help its members develop people, win work and deliver work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which they work. ABC Baltimore had a challenge ahead of them, how do they respond to the unrest in their city? How do they deliver on their promise to work for the betterment of the communities in which they work?
In the end, they decided to work towards bettering the community through what they do best: workforce development.
Nearly 10 years ago, ABC Baltimore created a pre-apprenticeship and job placement program called Project JumpStart, a comprehensive pre-apprenticeship program that targets low-income Baltimore residents, many of them ex non-violent offenders, and trains them in the building trades. Students are trained in construction math, safety, hands-on projects and heavy doses of workforce readiness. The results so far have been staggering. In 10 years, Project JumpStart has placed 700 people in well-paying construction jobs in and around Baltimore City. Incredibly, nearly 80% of JumpStart graduates are still employed today. It’s an astonishing success rate, especially when compared to other programs that aim to provide a second chance to non-violent offenders who served their time.
After 10 successful years, ABC Baltimore wanted to do more, so on Jan. 30, 2016, they held the first-ever fundraiser for the program. The sold-out event at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront was filled with city officials, business and political leaders and most importantly, Project JumpStart graduates who are now ambassadors for the program and Mike Rowe, the Baltimore-born host of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and now CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Serving as the keynote speaker for the event, Rowe spoke highly of the program saying “there’s no greater testament to a city than its ability to reinvent itself. And there’s no better example of that reinvention, than the graduates of Project JumpStart.”
ABC Baltimore aims to go beyond JumpStart, leveraging the lessons learned through Project JumpStart in developing new ways for funders, government officials and businesses to think and evaluate job training programs. “There’s too much at stake,” Mike Henderson says, “to continue to throw money at workforce development programs that don’t achieve the purpose for which they were created, and that is to create jobs.”
ABC Baltimore leaders spent the summer speaking with officials in Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s administration, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s Office of Employment Development (MOED), as well as business leaders from the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. Their goal was not only to educate leaders about Project JumpStart but also to start the conversation about what the business community can do to help champion workforce development and mentoring. “The Hogan administration has been wonderfully supportive,” says Henderson, “as has MOED.”
The summer also saw Project JumpStart’s expansion to Prince George’s County, Md., with a pilot class completed in July. ABC’s Metro Washington Chapter provides the job training and ABC Baltimore delivers job placement assistance. Since August, 21 Prince George’s County residents have enrolled, 17 have graduated, and six graduates have been placed into full-time employment. The program expects to achieve 75 percent job placement by 2016.