A strong business climate depends on an educated and skilled workforce. Moreover, the MAHCC believes that lifelong learning is an integral component of workforce development and the command of English and other main languages a necessary requirement for ultimate business success. In the new global high-tech economy, being competitive in an ever changing workplace requires a workforce that is flexible and open to learning new skills.
The Chamber is aware that for many, reality consists of unemployment, part-time jobs that provide insufficient income, or a lack of skills needed to qualify for higher paying employment. Moreover, recovery from the Great Recession has yet to manifest itself in a sufficient number of quality jobs for young college graduates. The result is that, burdened by student debt, a population of new graduates are underemployed or live from paycheck to paycheck.
Furthermore, the recession has created widespread unemployment, which renders racial and ethnic minorities and other marginalized populations as being particularly vulnerable. This is readily seen in underserved communities in urban centers, where lack of opportunities relegate many young people to poverty and a marginal education at best.
Because a strong economy depends on access to training and availability of good paying jobs, the vision of MAHCC is of a climate that is conducive to providing opportunities for gainful employment and career growth. To help create this environment, the MAHCC has developed a two-pronged strategy:
1) It collaborates with workforce development agencies to develop strategies that include meeting the needs of businesses and their employees by providing quality training and connecting people to career paths that increase their prospects for upward mobility and increased earning potential.
2) It advocates for growing competencies in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and technology). The MAHCC Board of Directors and staff consist of many highly educated individuals representing expertise in different STEM careers as well as successful business people. Their first-hand knowledge about the opportunities that await those who choose these careers is a valuable asset of the Chamber. The Chamber recognizes that global competition and an economy increasingly focused on STEM skills require that this specialized knowledge be introduced early in the educational system beginning and be continued in higher education by the development of practical curricula that prepare students for jobs in these high-in-demand fields.
The MAHCC encourages the learning of other cultures and languages to ensure that our workforce has an advantage as it competes internationally. Maritime, terrestrial, and air transportation has shortened travel distances even as the creation of the internet has reduced distant communication to near real time. More than ever, English is the lingua franca of business; thus, the cultural and linguistic competence of American citizens who work in other countries must be a priority if the U.S. is to continue exerting a leadership role.
The MAHCC supports immigrants in their efforts to learn English through our signature Program, Latino Educational Empowerment Through Reading (LEER). Yet, it is not enough that our newest residents learn English. Government agencies must both provide the opportunities for people to learn at hours convenient to them and also provide easy access to information on how to write resumes and apply for jobs.
Also, the MAHCC supports the educational rights of children of undocumented immigrants as an important workforce development issue. Called DREAMers by the Obama Administration, these young people are high school graduates who grew up in this country and who identify with the American culture. But they lack a U.S. passport and so they are denied the benefit of in-state tuition when they apply for college. The MAHCC has successfully advocated on behalf of DREAMers in Maryland, Virginia, and Florida; and it will continue advocating for them in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Years ago, the MAHCC created its own DREAM (Dare To Reach, Excel and Achieve More) program, which encourages youth to graduate from high school and to seek higher education. The MAHCC's implementation of the program is carried out, in part, by working in partnership with the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Washington, D.C. to provide educational opportunities and mentorship to the 130 students currently enrolled in the LAYC STEM program.
In a 2013 Brookings Institution Report entitled Sizing the Clean Economy, Mark Muro, Jonathan Rothwell and Devashree Saha said that the renewable energy industry, also known by names such as "green," "clean," and "low-carbon" economies—defined as the sector of the economy that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit—remains at once a compelling aspiration and an enigma.