Queen Anne’s County Economic and Tourism Development’s mission is to elevate the County’s status as an economically vibrant, welcoming, and diverse place for business and recreation. In keeping with this mission, the department has expanded its workforce development efforts by tapping Connie Dean as its Career Technology Liaison (CTL).
Dean primarily focuses on introducing students to skilled trades while partnering with Queen Anne’s County Public Schools (QACPS), Chesapeake College, local businesses, and related organizations to provide overall career awareness and career exploration opportunities for youth.
“It’s exciting to be in this role of initiating and strengthening sustainable ways of bringing educators and students together with local businesses, to strengthen the connection between career development programs and workforce needs,” Dean said.
By promoting trade careers, Dean aims to build a future workforce pipeline by engaging with local students and exposing them to options beyond the traditional college experience. Fostering relationships with the business community and schools creates new avenues for youth to locate internships, apprenticeships, and entry-level jobs.
Dean’s past experiences as a school counselor at QACPS and as an academic advisor at Chesapeake College allowed her to hit the ground running, thanks to her in-depth knowledge of career pathways and school systems. In 2022, Dean connected with more than 284 students, 32 teachers, and 74 businesses. Furthermore, she was pivotal in initiating a culinary program at Chesapeake College and QACPS. She also worked with the state of Maryland to establish 14 youth apprenticeship opportunities, placing seven local students in youth apprenticeships. Recently, the County was recognized by the Governor’s Office for having the most youth apprenticeships in place on the Eastern Shore.
Dean offers information and resources to expose middle and high school students to various career exploration opportunities, including entry-level positions after high school graduation, as well as careers that require specific credentials or certifications, two-year degrees, or four-year college degrees. In this new role, Dean works closely with QACPS Career and Technical Education (CTE) Supervisor Adam Tolley, who oversees all CTE programs for County schools. Dean and Tolley work with the local business community to promote opportunities for students to engage in meaningful, work-based learning experiences.
Commissioner Jack Wilson, an early proponent of the program, says he has experienced the career benefits of apprenticeship participation firsthand. With employment in the trades waning, Wilson says he made reinvigorating the County’s CTE efforts a priority for his tenure in office
“In certain industries right now, there is a vacuum of jobs to fill, partially due to a lack of education in trades over the last 30 years,” Wilson said. “The pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction, and we’re seeing more people start to gravitate toward those fields and more investment in them. We’re also seeing much more support in the community for a robust career technology program.”
According to Wilson, the program’s success is a product of economic development, education, and the local business community working together to discover each field’s needs. Wilson says that regular communication with the students enrolled in the program also helps them determine what steps they need to take.
“Connie’s position was created with the mindset that this system is like a three-legged stool,” Wilson explained. “There needs to be coordination between the three for the program to be successful, and Connie’s role helps ensure that success. It’s a linchpin, and strong communication has encouraged more people to get involved. There’s a lot of excitement in the County for this program.”
Within the next four years, Wilson hopes to see a dedicated regional career technology center for dual enrollment students open on the Chesapeake College campus.
“There’s strength in numbers, and working together on the Eastern Shore helps us offer more opportunities,” Wilson said. “I think that will be the icing on the cake when it opens.”
Kate McCloskey, Executive President of Kinera Foundation, an occupational and physical therapy provider based in Stevensville, emphasizes the positive impact of the CTL programs on her nonprofit’s services and the enrolled students. Kinera Foundation recently launched its Youth Career Program, wherein students actively contribute to therapy sessions at Kinera, providing vital support to children with special healthcare needs and disabilities.
“These children come to our facility for speech-language services, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. There is a shortage of specialty providers everywhere, and we want to be a part of the solution,” said McCloskey. “We know that students have very few opportunities to gain pediatric experience in the world of therapy, so this is our way of opening the door. We would also like to have interns who want to learn about nonprofit work, fundraising, data entry, grant writing, etc. I struggled to find what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be when I was younger, so I want to help other youths navigate the process, and what better way than first-hand experience? I’m excited that Connie and I connected to work together to increase what’s available for youth in our county.”
When asked about her position, Connie shared, “The more our businesses and schools work together to support each other, the more our students and workforce benefit. For businesses interested, we have implemented numerous ways to get involved with our local schools and students and thus contribute to career and workforce development in our county.”
Programs and initiatives implemented:
- Professional Development involving local businesses for all QACPS CTE Instructors
- Maryland Business Roundtable for Education -training for businesses to provide classroom presentations and resources
- Career Awareness Videos Project – videos created of local businesses for students
- ‘Career Corner’ – weekly segment on each High School Daily TV news show
- Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore – JA Inspire Program – brought to QAC
- Career Opportunities for Graduating Seniors
- Grant to provide Career Centers & Career Coaches for QACPS high schools
- Local career and internship fairs, field trips, and related career-related events/programs.
- Strengthening the Emerging Workforce Event -First annual QACETD event designed to encourage and enhance partnerships between educators, businesses, and other organizations for the career development of youth and workforce development for businesses