President & CEO, Employ Prince George’s, Inc.
Economic & Workforce Development
A: Every morning I thank God for allowing me to see another day and guiding me on the path that he has created for me. I then walk out on my deck to breath fresh air and sit in the sun, if it is out. This is how I charge myself up for my day. The winter months kill me because I am locked inside and can’t enjoy the outdoors. I have to substitute my outdoor charge with a cup of coffee, but it doesn’t compare.
A: As the President & CEO of Employ Prince George’s and the Executive Director of the Prince George’s Workforce Development Board, I hold myself accountable to three core objectives. First, building bridges to close the gaps between the needs and wants of businesses, the needs and wants of residents, and the needs and wants of my local community (governments, areas, elected officials, neighborhoods, etc.) in relation to workforce development.Second, facilitate opportunities for businesses and job seekers to ensure that the disadvantaged groups are prepared for, and have access to, the opportunities available. I call this ECONOMIC EQUALITY.Third, ensure that the team members at Employ Prince George’s are receiving the direction, support and guidance to be successful in their careers. I commonly ask new hires, sometimes on their first day, “What do they want to do next?” I ask this because I want to ensure, beginning with day one, that we are preparing people to be their best, and I hold them to that standard and goal. This philosophy helps develop leaders, ensures your teams are effective, and helps your organization achieve it goals. Simultaneously, if you are helping your team members grow and achieve success, they are less likely to leave your organization because they are happy, mission driven, and dedicated to the organization and mission. We try to create a family environment and not let the fear of someone leaving prevent us from developing them. #WeAreEPG
A: I am currently reading “Economic Development Is Not For Amateurs” by Jay Garner and Ross Patten. I am at the beginning, but I would recommend it for elected officials, government leaders, workforce and economic development professionals. It creates a common platform for elected officials and economic development professionals to use as they work to develop their local areas cohesively. Partnership is key to a local area’s success, and this book will help everyone understand how to partner and what they should be partnering on, to ensure their communities long-term success.
A: The future of public workforce systems, workforce development and economic development is NONPROFITS. I foresee jurisdictions across the US transitioning their workforce development and economic development agencies into quasi-government nonprofit entities. Jurisdictions are being plagues with decreasing and fluctuating funding levels, communities that are rapidly evolving, and the needs of businesses consistently changing to meet the demands of local and regional markets.Traditional government funding, operations and infrastructure are not compatible with our ever-changing communities. To maximize effectiveness, workforce systems and government entities must be flexible, have the ability to adapt, and course correct in a short period of time. Today, the most efficient workforce development models and programming in the Country are built around public workforce systems that are managed by nonprofits. Quasi-government nonprofits are the future for government funded economic and workforce development entities and systems. That will be only way local governments can rapidly and consistently meet the needs of their residents and businesses.Covid-19 has shown us how fast things can change. As we recovery from the recession created by the pandemic will be based on our ability to identify and maximize opportunities. I read news articles every day about those who are maximizing those opportunities and those who have missed them.
A: Not doing anything! Early in my career I worked consistently and never took breaks or vacations. I was treating the marathon of life and my career like it was a 100-meter dash. While I don’t believe everyone burns out, I do believe you can become less productive. You must take a mental break and rebalance your mind, body, spirit and soul to ensure you remain productive for a long period.Second, I love to stay updated on current events. I subscribe to over 10 different news publications and set google alerts for key words such as economic development and workforce development. I like to read and learn about trends and various successes across the Country and try to utilize that information in my day to day activities and efforts. I am commonly emailing groups about their success in an effort to recreate that success in Prince George’s County.
A: People say “No” too fast. Because people say no without fully examining specific situations and offers, they never learn of the opportunities they missed and why they missed them. I was fortunate to work for a leader who taught me to never say no immediately. He taught me to examine every situation and offer, and try to identify the pros and cons before moving forward. THERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY IN EVERY SITUATION! Everyone, not limited to business leaders, should always try to identify the opportunity and take advantage of it. Successful people can tell you of a time when they took advantage of an opportunity, while failures can tell you of a time when something happened to them.
About Walter Simmons:
Walter Simmons is the founding President & CEO of Employ Prince George’s Incorporated and the Executive Director of the Prince George’s County Local Workforce Development Board. He has been a workforce professional for 10 years, holding various positions in South Carolina, the District of Columbia and Maryland. Walter joined Prince George’s County in 2016.
In July of 2018, Walter helped establish Employ Prince George’s, Inc., and became the nonprofits first President & CEO. In his current roles, Walter leads the Prince George’s County Public Workforce System, staff’s the Prince George’s County Workforce Board, and manages a staff of over 70 staff at Employ Prince George’s. The Prince George’s County Public Workforce System is one of the largest workforce systems in the State of Maryland serving over 30,000 job seekers and 4,000 businesses annually.
Walter was one the youngest Workforce Development Board Directors in the Country when he assumed the role in 2016 and in 2018 he was recognized as one of Maryland’s Very Important Professionals under 40 by the Maryland Daily Record. In 2020 Walter was recognized as an Influential Marylander by the Maryland Daily Record and a Washington Business Journal 40 under 40.
Since 2017, Walter has helped Prince George’s County secure millions of dollars in workforce funding and create innovate workforce development programming to help thousands gain employment. Walter believes that successful workforce systems are driven by innovation, the leveraging of resources through community partnerships, and ensuring that the businesses community is the driver of workforce system. Walter’s motto is that successful people can tell you of a time when they took advantage of an opportunity while failures can tell you of a time when something happened to them. He encourages everyone to identify the opportunity and take advantage of it!