Access to talent drives Montgomery County’s growth and gives it a decided workforce advantage ideally suited for a global economy.
The region’s investment in education begins with its public schools. Montgomery County Public Schools boasts one of the highest graduation rates in the country among large school districts. U.S. News & World Report placed nine MCPS schools on its Best High Schools list in 2017.
The school system plays a central role in developing a workforce capable of competing in an increasingly global and high-tech economy. MCPS’ Career and Technology Education (CTE) program helps guide students toward careers in high-demand and emerging fields, from automotive and coding to nursing and another 30 plus programs.
“We just rolled out a new program called Naviance Course Planner, which is a way for students to start building their career paths, starting in 8th grade,” says Derek Turner, public information and web services director for Montgomery County Public Schools. “This program gets them thinking about what courses they need to take so that they can be on the right path for college and then career, or for career.”
Partnerships with the business community have been instrumental in helping shape students’ career paths. In 2017, MCPS partnered with Worksource Montgomery, a private-public partnership focused on strengthening educational outreach within the biohealth and life sciences industry, to develop a program called Summer RISE that places students in job shadowing opportunities throughout the county.
“The program tries to place students in multiple industries, including the biotech industry, so they can see what their interests are,” Turner says. “Our superintendent recognizes a concern that we often teach for the jobs of today. But, we need the partnerships with the business community to tell us what skills our students need for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Montgomery County’s higher education institutions also play a major role in stocking the talent pool. Montgomery College operates on three campuses and offers two-year degrees and certificates in more than 40 academic programs. The college is a crucial asset for the region’s science and technology industries.
The Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science & Technology on the college’s Germantown campus, serves as a business incubator, giving companies access to lab and office space as well as student workers. The college’s 145,000-square-foot Bioscience Education Center has become ground zero for training both traditional and nontraditional students to enter the region’s growing biohealth and life sciences industry.
“We are a knowledge economy and a knowledge economy heavily depends on the talent. If you have a talent locally available that can address the need of a knowledge economy, it can go a long way in attracting companies, retaining companies, creating jobs and providing economic opportunities for people who live in this region,” says Sanjay Rai, senior vice president for academic affairs at Montgomery College.
Strength in Numbers
Montgomery College works side-by-side with businesses to develop programs that will meet their workforce needs. The college partnered with the University System of Maryland and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) to offer students a fluid pathway from two-year to four-year degrees.
USG is a partner campus of nine Maryland public universities, all of which share the mission of creating educational and economic opportunities for the residents of Montgomery County.
USG’s innovative approach to higher education exists to help prepare and connect the county’s college graduates with career opportunities at home. Its 80-plus undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are selected to reflect the current and future demands and needs of the regional economy. Eighty-eight percent of students who earned a degree on the USG campus are working in the region in their intended career field.
A new 220,000-square-foot Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education Facility designed to expand baccalaureate, professional and advanced graduate degree offerings in health care, biosciences, engineering, and computational science disciplines is scheduled to open in 2019.
“By providing a high-quality and highly tailored higher education, and an accessible and affordable pathway to achieve a bachelor’s degree, we can have the best and most lasting impact on Montgomery County and its residents, in a way that directly supports the growth of the region’s knowledge based economy,” says Dr. Stewart Edelstein, executive director of the Universities at Shady Grove.