Volume 9, Number 5
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Member Spotlight: Anne Arundel Community College
Impending Influx of High-Tech, Homeland Security Jobs Plus National
STEM Initiative Ignite Extensive Change at Anne Arundel Community College
Anne Arundel Community College’s ability to quickly implement sweeping changes to credit, noncredit, and contract training programs and initiatives is no happy accident; it’s an ability that has evolved through hard-won experience.
In just the last several years, for example, the two-year, public Maryland community college has adapted it offerings to meet one major challenge after another generated by external forces, two of which involve the U.S. military and America’s lack of global competitiveness in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“AACC faculty and staff consistently exhibit the willingness to be fast and flexible in devoting their energies to new challenges and opportunities to achieve high quality and innovation to meet the needs of our community and our country,” said AACC President Martha A. Smith.
Proximity Plays Role
Nestled between the Severn and Magothy rivers near the Chesapeake Bay, AACC is home to nearly 54,000 credit and noncredit students annually. Its Arnold campus and other county sites place AACC classrooms only a short drive from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, the National Security Agency, and Fort George G. Meade. This U.S. Army installation is Maryland’s largest employer with an estimated 42,000 jobs.
The college’s proximity to major employers and employment centers has helped AACC develop a wealth of business and industry partnerships. The partners help keep college curricula current by participating on advisory boards, identifying emerging needs for workforce training, and ensuring the college’s programs generate workers with the skills needed to succeed.
Base Closures Affect AACC
A huge challenge facing AACC stems from the federal decision to consolidate military bases, the Base Realignment and Closure process (BRAC). Estimates of the impact of BRAC continue to evolve; planners currently project the closure will generate approximately 22,000 new jobs, many involving aspects of homeland security, by 2014 at Fort Meade.
AACC immediately joined its business, industry, and government partners in a proactive pursuit of information. Representatives attended local and regional planning sessions to identify impacts of the influx and plan ways to accommodate job training needs of the existing and incoming workforce. Many of the relocating workers are expected to bring their families with them, which in turn will affect the K-12 public school system and AACC.
Before BRAC, the college offered courses in many aspects of homeland security. Since the BRAC announcement, AACC has been steadily expanding its program and offerings to include degrees and certificates, credit and noncredit courses, and contract training.
“We work closely with employers to keep our curriculum current and to give our students the skills and knowledge needed for success on the job,” said Kathleen Happ, dean of AACC’s School of Business, Computing, and Technical Studies. “As a result, our students and graduates can transfer into homeland security programs at four-year colleges and universities or go directly into the workforce. They’re ready to tackle the challenges facing those who work in homeland security today.”
The college’s instruction now covers many of the hot national topics in homeland security, from threat assessment to border security.
Seaports, Airports Struggle With Staffing
While expanding its Homeland Security offerings and participating in BRAC planning sessions, AACC staff learned that homeland security requirements for cargo- and freight-handling logistics at airports and seaports were causing workforce woes.
Stringent federal requirements, coupled with new technologies, were making it difficult for companies to find qualified, trained workers to fill growing numbers of job vacancies at the Port of Baltimore and BWI Airport. The same was true on a national scale. Companies also reported having to conduct on-the-job training because the skills workers needed are so industry specific.
AACC decided to act. To meet this training need on a national scale, the college applied for and won federal funding. The U.S. Department of Labor in 2007 awarded AACC a $2.1 million grant to develop a national training program in transportation, logistics, and cargo security. The college is developing and rolling out six credit and five noncredit courses locally in 2008 and will then share online curricula with United States community colleges near major airports and seaports. AACC’s train-the-trainer sessions will make it easier for colleges adopting the curricula to put the new program into place.
The college’s Center for Workforce Solutions, which conducts contract training, plans to provide the instruction to 300 current port workers and recruit additional workers from employment centers and area high schools to help fill these jobs.
“We have relied heavily on help from our region’s business and industry leaders to identify the right skills and knowledge workers need to get the job done,” said Laura Weidner, executive director of the center. “They are reviewing results of our pilot curriculum and helping us refine it into a model that community colleges around the nation can easily adopt.”
AACC Answers Call for Action
As if those major challenges were not enough, AACC has taken on a third initiative: responding to the national call for colleges and universities to boost science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. AACC is collaborating with industry, government, and education leaders to create a regional program to
- Increase the number of students interested in STEM by expanding academic pathways and connections between the K-12 education system and higher education, such as AACC;
- Prepare all segments of the workforce in these areas;
- Increase the numbers of teachers in STEM subjects to alleviate a critical shortage of highly qualified math and science teachers projected to reach 283,000 by 2015;
- Promote the importance of and need for individuals working in STEM fields. New summer AACC Kids in College offerings, for example, give youth the chance to test wind technologies, build solar-powered cars, attend a Mad Scientist Training Academy and discover new careers through such offerings as Scrubs: Careers in Health Professions; and
- Work with state and federal agencies and the business community to support these efforts.
“We are committed to the national call to recruit more faculty and students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to ensure America’s competitive place in this global economy,” said President Smith. “Increasing the number of students entering the STEM pipeline, particularly by encouraging the involvement of women and minorities, is essential to ensure that our country remains an innovative and competitive force.”