Jun 10, 2013 / Local Hiring

New local hiring bill needs effective pipeline to connect workers and contractors

by Jason Perkins-Cohen

Last week, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed Council President Young’s bill to promote local hiring. The measure, which the mayor declined to sign, will take effect in December. It creates a standard by which some contractors will be required to hire city residents. Specifically, developers of projects that receive city contracts valued at $300,000 or more, or subsidies of $5 million or above, must fill 51 percent of the jobs created by those ventures with Baltimore City residents.

The vote was the culmination of a long battle over the bill’s promise and potential weaknesses. It’s not perfect. The legislation will apply to relatively few projects and waivers are available that could further reduce its impact. Still, it is important step toward linking the goals behind large-scale publicly funded projects and the need to get our residents working. Right now, Baltimore has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state, with more than 26,000 residents unemployed, and of the city’s unemployment insurance claims, 9.1 percent of those people work in construction.

As controversial as it was, passing the bill was the easy part. Now we have to come together and make sure the soon-to-be law works. That means developing a coordinated pipeline of programs and services so that residents are ready for the jobs once they become available. A simple system where construction companies know they can find qualified local workers would make it easy for employers to hire talented employees and minimize administrative burden.

We also need to monitor the implementation of the hiring laws so that we quickly address challenges that make it hard to match qualified residents to good jobs. If we can make this new law work – on the small scale– we might just build ourselves a better process in which contractors are able to easily find skilled workers and employers, both large and small, become willing to opt into local hiring as a hassle-free and reliable hiring process.

Jason Perkins-Cohen is JOTF’s executive director.

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