GBC’s Fry: New report underscores Maryland’s work force development challenges

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Here’s a forecast that demands attention: More than 908,000 new jobs and job openings due to retirements will be created in Maryland by 2018. Sixty-three percent of those jobs will require some form of college education, according to a recent Georgetown University report.

By then, Maryland will rank 11th in the nation for jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree and 3rd for jobs requiring a graduate degree.

The Georgetown report cites a “growing disconnect” between the types of jobs employers need to fill and the number of prospective employees with the education needed to fill them.

To me, the report underscores two key workforce development challenges that educators in Maryland face. First, colleges in our state must find a way to produce more graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. Currently, they produce twice as many graduates with degrees in business, social sciences and general studies than those with degrees in math, physics, engineering, computer science, and biology.

Second, our state’s K-12 school systems must produce more high school graduates that are truly “college-ready.” Currently, 32 percent of Maryland’s “college prep” high school graduates need remedial math when they get to college. So do 49 percent of non-college prep graduates.

For a state relying on bioscience and healthcare industry growth to fuel our future economy, these are troubling statistics. Clearly, more effective teamwork between Maryland’s secondary and higher education systems is needed to engage students early and to better align curricula to produce graduates who can succeed in a tech-savvy workforce.

Maryland educators are aware of these challenges and they’re working on solutions. They’re producing an abundance of strategies, tactics, and recommendations to prepare students now in elementary and middle schools for the knowledge-based work requirements they will face as adults.

For the sake of Maryland’s economic future, we must ensure that these plans generate effective action rather than collect dust on a shelf.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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