WASHINGTON — With technological engineering growing exponentially in Maryland, Hagerstown Community College is using a $618,000 federal grant to prepare students for the increasing demand for new jobs in the field.
Working with Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski and Rep. John Delaney (D-MD, 6th District), the college received a National Science Foundation grant for its new advanced manufacturing program.
“What we needed to address were the multi-skills needed by today’s technicians,” said program coordinator Anthony Valente.
The program is getting increased attention after a recent boom in computer-based manufacturing in Maryland, according to Valente.
The three-year grant will provide funds for new equipment, hiring a recruiter for the advanced manufacturing program, creating a summer program for high school students, and increasing outreach to local businesses, according to a statement from the college.
“As we described in our proposal to [the National Science Foundation], the needs of employers related to manufacturing continue to evolve as new technologies help ensure company viability and competitiveness,” said Anne Shepard, director of grant developments for the college. “Our new programs will meet employer needs and provide new technician education opportunities for students.”
Dr. Gül Kremer, a program director for NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) division that handled the grant, views the new manufacturing program as a necessary step towards supporting local development in the advanced manufacturing field.
“Through these programs, students are getting credentials to be more employable in that region,” Kremer said. “We are really looking forward to enhancing the technical skills of the younger generation as well as those considering career changes.”
The advanced manufacturing program will send instructors to high schools to talk about the opportunities available, according to Kremer, who believes this grant could create a pipeline from Hagerstown Community College to the technological manufacturing field in Maryland.
Cardin highlighted the importance of creating these new jobs within Maryland.
“So many great products are built in Maryland and the state is well-positioned to catalyze a new manufacturing revival,” Cardin, a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said in a statement.
“Without fail, I hear about the urgency of cultivating a highly trained workforce,” Cardin added. “This federal investment will ensure that Hagerstown Community College is at the epicenter of educating the next generation of Maryland manufacturers.”
The senator has placed an emphasis on job creation as part of his “Made In Maryland” tour, a campaign he started in 2013 to promote future economic growth in the state.
This is the latest grant Hagerstown Community College has received from the NSF’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative.
In 1992, Congress passed the Science and Advanced Technology Act, which mandates that the NSF start a program to support technical and community colleges around the country, V. Celeste Carter, a program director for NSF, explained.
“We need to ensure that all companies have a highly qualified workforce,” Carter said. He said the mandate is to make sure the U.S. will remain technologically competitive globally.
Cardin spokesman Marty Welch called strengthening the technology workforce and STEM education as two of the senator’s top priorities.
Carter emphasized the importance of changing students’ views of the manufacturing field from the image of assembly lines to one of an industry at the forefront of technological innovation.
“One of the important things for a student to realize is the wide variety of career options available for them,” said Carter, who believes the summer programs Hagerstown Community College plans to implement will help change this perception for high school students.
In July, Cardin, along with Mikulski, announced a plan for $15 million in federal funding to fourteen Maryland community colleges as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, including Hagerstown Community College.
“Companies need multi-skilled employees and this program is focused on this particular type of person,” Valente said.