Diversifying STEM

BCCC president: We're ready to boost diversity in STEM fields.

As one of the first community colleges in Maryland to become a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) partner, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) is poised to prepare and train high school students for careers in cutting-edge Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields with high earnings potential.

I am very grateful to Gov. Larry Hogan for designating Carver-Vocational Technical and Dunbar high schools as the city's first P-TECH sites. Both high schools are located in low-income communities — just minutes from BCCC's Liberty Campus. At BCCC, we are constantly exploring creative ways to get more women and minorities enrolled in one of our STEM programs. The governor's announcement also comes during a critical time for the college, as we anticipate a boost in our Early Enrollment Program that enables students to take college courses and earn college credits while they are still in high school. Students who meet the Early Enrollment Scholarship requirements may qualify for up to $1,000 per academic year toward the cost of tuition, fees and books.

P-TECH combines high school and post-secondary curriculums with career training opportunities to offer students a comprehensive educational program. It is a nationally recognized model that was co-developed by IBM. Each P-TECH school works with industry partners and a local community college to provide a curriculum that is academically rigorous and economically relevant. No matter their background, students will be able to earn high school diplomas while earning associate degrees in a BCCC STEM program.

P-TECH provides the city's underserved populations with an opportunity to launch a lucrative career and improve the quality of their lives in six years or less — at no cost to them. For years, there have been calls from various groups to increase diversity within STEM industries. With P-Tech, we believe that we can answer that call and expand STEM opportunities to minority groups.

Last month, I had the privilege of joining Anne Arundel Community College president Dawn Lindsay, Coppin State University President Maria Thompson, and Morgan State University president David Wilson in a panel discussion at the Fifth Annual U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference in Baltimore. We detailed the many ways in which postsecondary institutions are working to support local, state, and federal efforts to address the needs of the fast-growing STEM industry. We also stressed the importance of community colleges establishing and maintaining partnerships with K-12 schools to encourage students' interest in math and science. It is our job as educators to inspire students to pursue employable pathways; I am extremely optimistic about the future of STEM education in our region.

P-TECH is fueled by business, academia, and government partners who serve as the driving force behind the state's 21st century workforce development. New and emerging technologies are frequently posing complex challenges and changing how we live our everyday lives, which is why STEM professionals are in such high demand.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in occupations related to STEM is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022. The annual average wage for all STEM occupations is $79,640. That's 1.7 times the national annual average wage for all occupations ($46,440). In Maryland, there are 11,480 information technology businesses awarded $11.52 billion in federal contracts annually. Maryland ranks first among the states in the percentage of professional and technical workers (28.3 percent) in the workforce, says the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. But finding highly skilled workers has been difficult for many employers across STEM industries. By 2018, according to economic projections from the White House, there could be as many as 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs.

BCCC's participation in P-TECH bolsters its standing as a leader in STEM education. The college offers associate degree programs in Engineering Transfer, Computer Information Systems, Computer-Aided Design and Drafting, Cyber Security and Assurance, and Robotics/Mechatronics Technology. In fact, BCCC is the only two-year college in Maryland that offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Robotics Technology. Our Business and Continuing Education Division recently added a certificate program in Cyber Security and Assurance, creating another pathway to completion.

In October 2015, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Department of Homeland Security, National Cyber Security Awareness Month designated BCCC as one of the National Cyber Security Awareness Month champions. In November 2015, the Third Annual BCCC STEM Community Day at the Liberty Campus was a host site for the first Maryland STEM Festival. Students in the BCCC Engineering Technology Scholars Scholarship Program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, were each awarded up to $4,150 in scholarships last year.

We are ready and well-prepared to receive and train P-TECH program students.

Gordon F. May, Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of Baltimore City Community College.

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