Last month, the Maryland Tech Council presented Montgomery College with the “Partner of the Year” award during its annual industry awards event. Given by the largest technology trade group serving the advanced technology and biotechnology communities of Maryland, the award recognizes the College’s work as a partner and for its role in growing the tech and life sciences workforce. With the fact that 71 percent of Montgomery College alumni enter the county workforce, the partnership is a natural one.
The council’s CEO Tami Howie keeps a watchful eye on the evolving industries that bookmark the I-270 Technology Corridor, and throughout the state. “MC is an extremely valuable part of the tech and biotech environment. They not only provide one of the best facilities in the state but they are always thinking of innovative ways to bring a higher-level workforce to the state of Maryland,” Howie said of the College, which has collaborated with the MTC on numerous industry, trade, and career-building initiatives and grant programs.
Howie says the College excels at pivoting quickly to meet the ever-changing needs of not only the tech and biotech industries, but also the burgeoning cybersecurity sector.
“Member companies look for hands-on skills and the ability to work in labs,” she said. “And MC has a cybersecurity center, which gives students relevant experience that often leads to internship opportunities… [The College] is in constant communication making sure the curriculum is teaching to the jobs.”
About 20,000 jobs in cybersecurity open up in Maryland per month, according to Howie. In order to meet that need, Montgomery College offers students the necessary skills to compete in the local job market while working with businesses to meet their workforce needs.
The Tech Council has hundreds of life sciences and tech businesses as member companies. Its goal is to enhance and position Maryland as a “second Silicon Valley,” attracting investment and spurring and commercializing new businesses, while enhancing existing businesses. Many of the state’s and county’s largest and most influential businesses are members, said Steve Greenfield, the College’s dean of business, information technology and safety of Workforce Development and Continuing Education (WD&CE) at Montgomery College.
“MC is an extremely valuable part of the tech and biotech environment. They not only provide one of the best facilities in the state but they are always thinking of innovative ways to bring a higher-level workforce to the state of Maryland,” Howie said of the College.
Over the years, members have echoed two primary issues as the top concerns for businesses: investment and workforce.
“Despite a highly educated population, there continues to be a skills gap for the state’s technology and life sciences businesses, particularly in cybersecurity, data analytics, and programming,” Greenfield said.
“The partnership has blossomed, especially with Tami and community outreach director, Jenn Mish,” Greenfield said. “Jenn was engaged and paid by the TAACCCT (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training) grant to act as the official employer outreach person on our behalf. She’s done a terrific job organizing small and large groups of employers who then engage with Montgomery College.”
Montgomery College and MTC became official partners in 2015. MC applied for the $15 million TAACCCT grant in 2014, and noticed that the USDOL grant solicitation strongly encouraged applicants to partner with industry and in particular industry associations. Dr. Sanjay Rai, senior vice-president for academic affairs at Montgomery College, has been on the MTC board, and encouraged the College to establish a collaboration.
“We are part of a digital economy in a dynamic environment for business and industry. It is vital that the College remain engaged and in constant communication with our partners ensuring that our graduates are fully prepared to work in these industries and our academic programs remain relevant,” Dr. Rai said. “This can only be achieved through a strong and meaningful partnership between the College, the County, and local and regional business and industry.”
When the grant was won, MTC was awarded $225,000 over three years to engage its member businesses in the interest of providing internships, jobs, faculty learning opportunities, guest speaking opportunities, information, and an advisory board for the TAACCCT grant. The grant runs until September of this year, but the partners are planning to apply for another.
“MC is a great partner in helping us educate and incentivize the workforce to stay in Maryland,” Howie concludes. “They help build a community, they help people stay and thrive. They offer opportunities that go beyond the classroom.”