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Maryland launches major job training program for offshore wind industry

Major wind farm projects are planned off the coast of Ocean City, and Tradepoint Atlantic is the home of a manufacturing deployment hub. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

A group of employers, unions and other partners are coming together with the Maryland Department of Labor to create a multimillion-dollar statewide workforce training initiative centered on supporting the state’s growing offshore wind industry.

State and local leaders announced the upcoming initiative on Wednesday at Tradepoint Atlantic, the logistics center in southeastern Baltimore County that announced exactly a year ago that it would be the home to an offshore wind deployment hub that will create the monopiles that connect wind turbines to the sea floor.

The nearly $23 million in funding for the project comes from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which announced 32 Good Jobs Challenge grants going to organizations and governments throughout the nation. The awardees were selected out of a pool of 509 applicants.

Grants will go towards projects that aim to train individuals, especially marginalized people, for well-paying jobs in several key industries. In Maryland, the program, known as Maryland Works for Wind, will be specifically targeted at “formerly incarcerated individuals, veterans, disconnected youth, and other underserved populations,” according to the EDA’s website.

“Providing access to these new jobs, the new jobs of the future, and giving workers the training that they need to succeed are essential for expanding and diversifying our country’s workforce,” U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Don Graves said at Tradepoint Atlantic on Wednesday.

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According to the Department of Labor’s grant application, the program aims to create 5,800 new jobs in offshore wind throughout both central Maryland and the Eastern Shore (Maryland’s wind farms are planned to be built off the coast of Ocean City). The program will also train or upskill 4,370 workers, yield almost $3 billion in total economic output for the Central Maryland region over the next two decades, and affect 18 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions, officials said.

The Department of Labor also said in its application that it plans to supplement the grant with some existing funds, including a community workforce pledge of $10 million from Ørsted and about $9 million in philanthropic donations made to several of the state’s training partners.

The companies that will partner with the state on the project include Chesapeake Shipbuilding, Crystal Steel Fabricators and two offshore wind companies, US Wind and Ørsted. The state will also work with local workforce development boards, training organizations, community colleges, unions, state agencies and others to implement the project. In total, nearly 50 partners are tied to the project.

“With their support and collaboration, this funding will ensure that Maryland employers and job seekers stand ready to meet the demands of the emerging offshore wind industry,” said Gov. Larry Hogan Wednesday.

Hogan said the program will also build upon the success of the state’s existing workforce development opportunities, such as Employment Advancement Right Now, or EARN, Maryland program. EARN is a workforce development grant program that funds 63 job training partnerships in well-paying industries throughout the state.

In total, the Good Jobs Challenge grants total half a billion dollars, with the goal of providing job opportunities for 50,000 Americans nationally.