Bill Atkinson Interviews Paul Kappel, CEO at JA Central Maryland and Tom Sadowski, Executive Director at MEDCO

On Wednesday, over 100 business executives, state officials and students will meet at Junior Achievement (JA) of Central Maryland’s new headquarters in Halethorpe to celebrate the grand opening of its new Youth Workforce and Innovation Center.

Attendees will tour the facility’s 30,000 square feet of unmatched, interactive learning space designed for early workforce development. This real-world establishment enables elementary, middle, and high school students to engage in JA’s proven Capstone curriculum, teaching them the skills needed to be competitive in the workplace, how to demonstrate financial responsibility, and start businesses.

The space will also provide multi-use opportunities to support additional community programming and bring business and education leaders together—bridging K-12, post-secondary, and adult talent development initiatives. The facility aims to serve over 40,000 students annually, as well as thousands of parent and community volunteers, educators, and business leaders.

The opening of this new facility comes during a time when Maryland’s workforce development challenges are significant. Research shows that high school student engagement in the classroom stands at just 40%. It’s no surprise that only 11% of business leaders believe graduates have the needed skills and competencies to enter the workforce. Moreover, students from Baltimore born into poverty have just a one in ten chance to reach the top fifth percentile of income.

With this new initiative, Junior Achievement will be able to expand its proven impact. Compared to the general population, JA students secure employment at a higher rate while earning 20 percent more. JA Alumni are also 2.5 times more likely to start a business, are 30% more likely to be college graduates (and 67 percent more likely to have an advanced degree), and ultimately be better off than their parents.

JA Central Maryland President and CEO, Paul Kappel Jr. and J. Thomas Sadowski, Executive Director, Maryland Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO), sat down with City Biz to discuss the potential for the Youth Workforce and Innovation Center and what it will mean for students, teachers and businesses in the region.

Interview Questions:

Paul: Tell us about the Youth Workforce and innovation Center. What is it? What will it do? How many students will go through it a year? What are some of the programs?

Tom: What are some of the issues that you see in our region and how does JA address them? What challenges do students face? And who needs to be involved for these experiences to be successful?

Paul: Where does JA come into play?

Tom: From your perspective why is the Youth Workforce and Innovation Center important and how will local employers, government agencies benefit?

Tom: Why is creating a pipeline to business and industry so important? I understand that in cyber there are jobs available for 25,000 people. Is JA providing solutions?

Paul: Is JA filling the pipeline?

Paul: A lot of people have heard about Junior Achievement, but what programs does JA offer and why should educators, elected officials and local business leaders care?

Tom: How do you break through the noise? Kids want to be TikTok sensations or play professional sports but the percentages are miniscule? How do you change mindset?

Tom: You have been chairman of JA for roughly five years. Why? Do you see it changing lives?

Paul: What schools are involved in JA and how many students are engaged in JA programs each year?

Tom: What corporations are involved in JA? Are they putting skin in the game?

Paul: Where do you see Junior Achievement five years from now? What kind of impact can the organization have in the Baltimore area?

Connect with Tom and Paul on LinkedIn

Bill Atkinson launched Atkinson Strategic Communications in January 2020 after 15 years in the public relations business and 21 years as a newspaper reporter. Clients include, Coca-Cola Consolidated, the largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the country, the American Beverage Association, Howard Bank, Ambu, a Danish medical device maker with its U.S. headquarters in Columbia, Md., and Think Systems, a Baltimore-based management consulting firm.

Prior to starting his own firm, Atkinson was a partner in 212 Communications, which he joined in June 2015, and focused on strategic and crisis communications, media relations and grassroots strategies. Before that he was a senior vice president at global public relations agency Weber Shandwick. At Weber’s Baltimore office Atkinson specialized in strategic and crisis communications as well as reputation management. Clients included Constellation Energy, Honeywell, General Motors, Bank of America, Promontory Financial Group and 1st Mariner Bank.

Junior Achievement of Central Maryland is part of the largest organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, JACMD provides hands-on programs that show more than 30,000 K-12 students each year the realities of how careers, money, and business ownership work. JA experiences are proven to give students the edge in college completion, career readiness, earning potential, and business start-up. For more information, visit

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