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FMA Promotes Workforce Priorities in Annapolis

The Fort Meade Alliance urged lawmakers to enable Anne Arundel County Public Schools to bring more industry expertise into the classroom and create a pathway to teaching opportunities for industry experts and retirees during a hearing in the House Ways & Means Committee on Feb. 25.

“As a generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians retire, young people are not sufficiently replacing these important technology positions,” said FMA Immediate Past President Deon Viergutz of Lockheed Martin. “To remain competitive, the United States must recognize the gap and emphasize the importance of science technology engineering and math. We also must inspire students to pursue these disciplines which are critical to our national security and economic strength.”

Workforce development is a major priority for the Fort Meade Alliance. The organization works with partners in industry, government and academia to identify critical needs and develop programming to address those needs.

Legislation was introduced that would allow Anne Arundel County Public Schools to establish an adjunct instructor program for specialized and hard to fill areas like science, technology, engineering, math and performing arts. The program would give AACPS the ability to hire subject matter experts from industry, higher education and the military to teach on a part time basis.

“One of the overwhelming needs identified by all of our partners in the region is workforce skills. The ability to bring in industry and military to support the teaching in these specialized areas is critical for the workforce and for the relevance it brings into the classroom,” said FMA Education & Workforce Chair Penny Cantwell of Howard Bank.

The bill, HB 617, was introduced by Del. Pam Beidle (D-Dist. 32) at the request of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, and it has become a delegation bill after being unanimously approved by the Anne Arundel County delegation. FMA Board members Cantwell, Viergutz, Maureen McMahon of Anne Arundel County Public Schools and Doreen Harwood of Leidos attended the committee hearing to outline the FMA’s support of the initiative.

Many FMA member companies work on programs to inspire local students to pursue careers in STEM fields. However, industry professionals, transitioning workers and retirees can’t go into the classroom in teaching roles. This legislation would help the school system make STEM subjects more relevant to students and help address the region’s workforce needs. McMahon said that the fields of study targeted by this program are at the cutting edge intersection between traditional disciplines. Industry professionals with content expertise could help provide the specialized instruction needed to equip county students to be the innovation leaders of tomorrow.

“The ability to hire adjunct instructors from industry, the folks that walk the walk, will be a win-win for all of us,” McMahon said. “We get the folks in front of our students that live and breathe this content and have the experience we need, and the industry folks will take an absolute direct role in improving the workforce pipeline for Maryland and for the nation.”

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