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Full Class: Lecture Hall Fills With Tech Employers

On a recent Tuesday morning in the newly renovated Science West building on the Rockville Campus, the seats in the lecture hall were full and the podium was set in the front of the room. But this was anything but a typical class. The seats were filled not with students, but with tech companies hoping to hire them.

The inaugural Montgomery College Tech Talent Connect event was designed to showcase Montgomery College’s expanded capacity to meet the talent needs of companies looking for skilled tech and cybersecurity employees. And the needs are great. In the last six months (July 2016 to January 2017), approximately 46,000 IT-related jobs went unfilled within a 50-mile radius of the College.

Representatives from more than 25 companies attended the event, including Leidos, Atlantech Online, United Solutions, MAR LLC, E-Management, EndoSys, and the Maryland Tech Council, which represents 700 companies.

“Workforce development is a priority because the College is part of the community. The success of this region is our success. Students have to train for the jobs that are in demand. We don’t train students so they have a diploma to frame, we train them to get jobs,” said Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Montgomery College, in her opening at the event.

The TAACCCT grant has allowed Montgomery College to lead a 14-Maryland college consortium to build new cyber programs; engage 150 new employers statewide; enroll 2,100 new students, 458 here at Montgomery College; build countless new cyberlabs across the state; and earn students—especially those who are underemployed or unemployed—new credentials and new jobs.

The TechHire grant also provides support and education to the underserved, focusing on low income and ESL populations and getting them into entry-level jobs. “If they have already have some skills,” Greenfield says, “then getting them the higher-end training helps move them into higher paying jobs.”

The America’s Promise grant focuses on individuals who are college educated or IT certified, and “tops them off” with eight-week boot camps in java programming and cybersecurity.

Craig Rice, a member of the Montgomery County Council and chair of the education committee, agreed. “If we fail students, then we have to take care of those adults and help them get back on track,” he said.

Perhaps no one works harder to make sure students have the skills employers want than Steve Greenfield, a dean for the Workforce Development and Continuing Education area. “Over the last three years, we have dramatically increased our capacity and our ability to design and develop programs, and turn out students who are ready to work in technology jobs,” Greenfield told the crowd.

Indeed, in three successive years—2014, 2015, and 2016—Montgomery College has been awarded more than $24 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Labor (see sidebar).

“These efforts are the result of partnerships you see in the room today—government, business, and education coming together to have an impact on workforce and economic development and to have social and economic impact,” Greenfield said.

For students who want to pursue careers in IT and cybersecurity, the opportunities are great. By 2026, a projected 19,000 new IT jobs are expected to be added to the economy within a 50-mile radius, which represents a projected seven percent growth.

Tami Howie, president and CEO of the Maryland Tech Council, emphasized the importance of working together to train those students and develop the local workforce, which she said was her number one priority. “We’re going to do great things together,” Howie said.

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