Building a Workforce Agenda for Prince George’s County
by Andrea Roethke
Earlier this month JOTF released a new report exploring the workforce development landscape in Prince George’s County. While the county is faring well in many respects, local workers face a unique mix of challenges, with educational gaps at the top of the list. Our report frames and qualifies these challenges, providing the context for what we hope will be a collaborative effort to identify and implement solutions.
Prince George’s County is part of a thriving regional economy, and the County’s $70,715 median income reflects this. Some of the overall statistics on the county can be deceiving, however, as they mask significant regional disparities. Communities inside the Capital Beltway have much higher rates of unemployment and poverty, for example.
Major disparities also exist between workers who live in the county to take advantage of the area’s many high-skill, technical jobs – often federal government positions – and those who work in lower-paying service sector jobs. Prince George’s private sector jobs pay less, on average, than similar jobs in other parts of the state. More than 60 percent of residents travel outside of the county to find jobs, which makes transportation a critical issue.
Many others find themselves stuck in lower-paying jobs due to limited education and literacy levels. Nearly 14 percent of county residents lack a high school credential and an even more lack basic literacy skills. This translates to a high demand for adult education services, and funding has not kept up. Hundreds of people remain on waiting lists. The county can expect a sustained demand for English language learning, as the foreign-born continue to be the county’s key driver of net population growth.
These learning gaps make it difficult for residents to acquire the education and training they need to get ahead. A major obstacle for many residents is the need for remediation when they get to the college level. Both recent high school graduates and adults returning to school require remediation at high rates, and ultimately, most do not graduate. Only 25 percent of Prince George’s Community College students graduate or transfer within four years.
We hope our report raises the profile of the issues facing Prince George’s County workers, and serves as a rallying cry for stakeholders in the region to build creative solutions. We look forward to building and advancing a collaborative agenda. For those outside the county, we hope that this report sheds light on what’s happening in the state’s second largest county and a critical link in the region’s economic landscape.
Andrea Roethke is JOTF’s senior policy analyst.