Md. not ready for base relocation, report says

Study predicts shortage of master's, doctorate holders to meet demand for new jobs

March 29, 2007|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Sun Reporter

... Maryland could use a lot more scientists and engineers, particularly those who have security clearances and graduate degrees.

A Towson University analysis of the state's work force needs after the national military base realignment takes place in five years shows Maryland will have a shortage of residents to fill high-paying technical jobs.

"The level of education has to go up to meet the needs," said Daraius Irani, director of applied economics at the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University. "As a state, we are facing a challenge that begins in elementary school. These students need to have math skills and the desire to be an engineer."

Irani, who presented his report to the state school board yesterday, said the state's public high schools, colleges and universities will have to begin graduating many more students interested in science, math, engineering and technology to keep up with the needs of the military and private contractors.

While state agencies have focused on the roads, schools and houses that will have to be built in the coming decade to accommodate an additional 45,000 new jobs, the report highlighted the opportunities the job growth will provide for Maryland.

Although some of the military personnel will move from New Jersey and Virginia to Maryland, Irani is projecting that about 70 percent of those workers, often in their 40s and 50s, will be unwilling to uproot their families for their jobs.

"We shouldn't think of Interstate 95 being loaded with U-Hauls coming down, but by job postings," Irani said.

Those jobs will be just the kind that most states are trying to attract -- high-paying and highly skilled.

The report says that 70 percent of the employees will need to have a graduate degree, including 13 percent with doctorates. An additional 10 percent will be filled by people with bachelor's degrees. Only 3 percent will be open to those with a high school diploma.

The analysis did not include the secondary jobs that will develop in the related service and construction industries to support the influx of new residents, but looked only at the military and private contractors working for the bases.

The jobs cannot be outsourced to another country because many require security clearance from the military.

"If we are not ready and poised to take those jobs, they will go elsewhere," said school board member Dunbar Brooks.

Some board members used the analysis to restate the need to go forward with the High School Assessments, the state's end-of-course exams that today's 10th-graders have to pass to graduate, unless the board votes in the next two years to delay the testing requirement.

"I think it is pretty obvious that yesterday's schools and yesterday's standards will not work," said state board President Edward Root. "Some people may not want to hear that."

Several years ago, the state started a pre-engineering program called Project Lead the Way in a few high schools. With grants from the state education department to train teachers, the program has grown and is offered in 54 high schools.

In addition, Northrop Grumman Corp. is offering $10,000 scholarships and summer employment to one student in each county and Baltimore City who wants to become an engineer.

"We have to notch up our expectations," said state schools chief Nancy S. Grasmick. She said the state is encouraging districts to offer more Advanced Placement classes, programs that allow high school students to be enrolled in college classes and other rigorous coursework. "The High School Assessments are a floor," she said.

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