Community College of Baltimore County receives $1.3 million in grants for career-focused STEM program

The Community College of Baltimore County received $1.3 million from two grants to implement the STEM Core Network initiative in Maryland, CCBC officials said Wednesday.

The STEM Core Network is a partnership among scientific and technical employers, community colleges and workforce agencies that prepare students for careers in science and technical fields.

“These grants enable CCBC to ensure that our students receive the education and training that lead to high-wage, high-demand STEM careers,” CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis said in a statement.

The grants come in two parts: $599,000 from the National Science Foundation and $738,684 as a sub-award recipient through Saddleback College in California, meaning CCBC is getting money from Saddleback, which was awarded a larger grant, to participate in a 30-college network to expand the STEM Core program.

CCBC, which has campuses in Catonsville, Dundalk and Essex, is working with Anne Arundel Community College to allow students who show an interest in cybersecurity to participate in the program over the next three years.

Michael Venn, assistant dean for mathematics at CCBC, said in its first academic year, the program is hoping to enroll 30 students at the Catonsville campus and 30 at the Essex campus.

Students at Dundalk are eligible, but may need to travel for certain courses, he said.

The yearlong program puts students in accelerated mathematics classes to help those who aren’t proficient in the field to fulfill prerequisite courses to take calculus classes, seen as a requirement in technical fields.

Private companies and government contractors have told Venn they’re facing a shortage of job applicants with cybersecurity degrees.

“It’s well documented on the nightly news the threat that cybersecurity poses to all of us, but especially large institutions and the government,” he said. “I see the need every day, and unfortunately, as a math teacher, I am concerned that math is the thing [keeping students from STEM degrees]. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it’s keeping many students from pursuing these careers.”

Nationally, math programs at the college level have about a 60 percent pass rate, Venn said. Accelerated math programs, like the one at CCBC, have pass rates between 75 percent and 80 percent.

Additionally, students will receive special academic advising, career coaching and referral services. Students meeting program requirements will be placed in paid summer internships to further develop their technical skills, CCBC officials said.

“If you come to me, and you tell me you’re a chemistry major who needs to get through calculus, we’re trying to get you through the program, Venn said. “That’s what the whole program is about.”

CCBC is looking to hire a full-time student-support specialist to work with the STEM Core program, Venn said. That person would help coordinate tutoring and internships for students, helping them gain practical experience.

“We’re always looking for new opportunities for our students in the private sector,” he said.

Interested students or prospective students can contact Venn at 443-840-2655 or mvenn@ccbcmd.edu.

cboteler@baltsun.com

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