A highly educated workforce is key to economic growth and job creation in the Fort Meade region, and throughout Maryland.

“Increasing Maryland’s competitiveness is crucial to attracting the companies and talent needed to boost our economy and support the vital missions at Fort Meade,” Fort Meade Alliance (FMA) President Steve Tiller said.

Maryland economic development leaders outlined efforts to enhance Maryland’s economic competitiveness during a Sept. 24 FMA breakfast. The state of Maryland recently reorganized its economic development and business outreach efforts under the new Department of Commerce (DOC), which will be led by Maryland Secretary of Commerce Mike Gill. This reorganization was based on the work of the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, chaired by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine.

Gill and Augustine touted the state’s strengths in high tech industries like cybersecurity, health sciences and aerospace defense. Maryland’s highly educated workforce and cutting edge research provide a potential launching pad for future economic growth. Capitalizing on these strengths will require renewed focus on workforce development.

“It takes talented, well-educated people, a lot of engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and our country has not been real great at producing those,” Augustine said. “We need to, some how, get our young people more interested in technology, because we are losing a huge talent base because of a lack of enthusiasm in these fields.”

To help ensure success, Gill said the new DOC will focus on strengthening collaboration between industry, academia and government. He said the department will hire a liaison to Maryland’s higher education community. It will also add more regional and strategic industry representatives and put emphasis on core and growing industries in Maryland, including cybersecurity, life sciences, manufacturing, and aerospace and defense. The department also will take a larger role in coordinating a multi-state-agency effort to better respond to business issues.

In addition, the DOC will do more to leverage the many federal facilities and military installations located throughout the state, including at Fort Meade, which generates a total of $22.3 billion in economic activity annually, according to a recent study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute.

Workforce development remains a top priority of the FMA. The organization’s student programs are designed to bolster student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and encourage them to pursue STEM careers.

“Our goal is to provide students hands-on and informative demonstrations from knowledgeable professionals to boost student excitement and showcase STEM career paths,” FMA Education and Workforce Chair Penny Cantwell said.

In addition to student programs, ongoing FMA education and workforce priorities include the following.

  • Creating funding opportunities to develop innovative school programs to introduce students to provide mentorship opportunities in areas that match regional workforce needs.
  • Creating pathways into K–12 teaching opportunities for industry experts and retiring and transitioning professionals to integrate the most up-to-date skills and changing industry needs into the curriculum.
  • Promoting initiatives like the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Operation Hire program, which encourages businesses to hire veterans and provides resources to help recruit, onboard and support veterans in the workplace.

Learn more about FMA’s workforce development initiatives and student programs at www.ftmeadealliance.org.