Lurking beneath the surface of Maryland's impressive pool of technical personnel is a work force gap that threatens the state's ability to compete in national and global markets. With the exception of a few bright spots in affluent areas like Howard and Montgomery counties, many business leaders view the public school system as an inept machine churning out graduates ill-prepared for an increasingly high-skill economy.
This is why business leaders are taking a closer look at the schools that produce the men and women in their factories, plants and offices. What they have found is that what ails education is both a social and a business problem. High school graduates who can't read, write or manipulate numbers coherently require costly remedial training. And it isn't as if employers have a choice. If demographic forecasts pan out, this is the pool they will be forced to draw from.
Something has to change. The Maryland Business Roundtable on Education, a group of 50 corporate executives of some of the state's largest companies, may be part of the solution. This new group has no formal agenda. But its members agree on two crucial points: 1) There are deep and fundamental problems in Maryland's public schools, and 2) the business community needs to get off the fence and get involved.