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Getting the word out about job skills

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(From left) Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley tour Montgomery College's health science labs.
Photo: Sanjay Suchak/Montgomergy College

Discovery Communications—the media company that manages several  popular cable TV networks—is joining the national effort to increase and improve job skills by launching a new website compiling education and training resources, developing public service announcements (PSAs) and partnering with a local community college to help its students.

The company said on Tuesday that it is teaming with Montgomery College in Maryland, where the $20 billion company is headquartered. It will offer internships to students in a variety of areas, from media technology to marketing. It will also loan its staff to the college to serve as guest lecturers and career counselors, and to help students write their résumé and practice interviewing skills.

During a media event, Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav said he himself would like to serve as a lecturer at the college, noting that he once lectured on business at Fordham University.

Celebrity support

The company is also using its access to more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers worldwide to stress the importance of attaining high-demand workforce skills through eight PSAs that include stars of its various networks, including Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs, and baker Buddy Valastro of TLC’s realty show Cake Boss. Some of the announcements are in Spanish and will be broadcast on the company’s Spanish-speaking networks. Several of the clips mention that community and technical colleges are institutions that offer training for industries looking for skilled workers.

The PSAs will also be on Discovery Communications’ new website discoveryourskills.com, which includes various sources on education and training, including a link to the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) popular College Finder tool and AACC’s new Trade in Focus website.

Local, state and federal officials as well as business leaders and representatives from AACC and the League for Innovation in the Community College attended the announcement at Montgomery College, which was preceded by a tour of the college’s health science simulation labs.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded Discovery’s effort, adding businesses and community colleges must do a better job of working together to prepare skilled workers. He noted that despite hard economic times, there are 2 million high-skilled, high-wage jobs available. The jobs are unfilled because companies cannot find enough trained workers.

“We all have to work together to fill that skills gap,” Duncan said.

Attracting employers

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also called for more companies to take “civic action” like Discovery, noting that it’s also an economic decision. He said his goal of increasing the state’s workforce skills by 20 percent by the end of 2012 will help make Maryland attractive to companies seeking a highly skilled workforce.  

“There is a connection between education, skills and economic opportunities,” O’Malley said.

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