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Maryland Plan Calls for $72M Investment in STEM Workforce, R&D Infrastructure

August 26, 2009

To establish Maryland as a global leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce and STEM-based R&D infrastructure, a task force convened last year by Gov. Martin O'Malley urges the state to adopt a set of initiatives to reach higher performance standards in teaching and learning in addition to greater productivity in transforming the state's high volume of R&D activity into economic growth and job creation.

Although Maryland houses several federal research laboratories and major research universities, the state does not fare well in its ability to move research discoveries to the marketplace, according to the task force report. As a result, the state significantly underperforms in creation of new companies, jobs and economic growth emerging from its R&D base. This issue, combined with a shortage of highly-qualified workers in STEM fields, could put the state at a competitive disadvantage in the future, the task force warned. The report notes that while the state currently ranks second in the nation in professional and technical workers as a percentage of the workforce, its aging workers and shortfall in qualified K-12 STEM teachers will impact its ability to maintain this ranking.

To address these challenges, the governor's STEM Task Force was divided into three working groups, including STEM education, STEM workforce development, and translational R&D. The following proposals are among the recommendations presented to the governor earlier this month:

  • Triple the number of teachers in STEM fields and increase the five-year retention rate from an estimated 50 percent to 75 percent. Recommendations include better recruitment and expanding and fully funding Maryland's Professional Development Schools;
  • Increase the number of STEM college graduates by 40 percent. Recommendations include expanding statewide associate degree programs to include high demand fields such as Engineering and Biological Sciences;
  • Boost Maryland's global competitiveness by supporting research and entrepreneurship through establishment of Centers of Excellence focusing on translational research and expanding the successful Maryland Industrial Partnerships program;
  • Provide STEM internships, co-op, or lab experiences to all interested high school and college students; and,
  • Create a Maryland STEM Innovation Network with both a physical and virtual statewide presence to make STEM resources available to all.

In its final report, the task force outlined funding proposals for each of the seven recommendations beginning in FY11 and extending through FY15. The total investment is $72 million, including $25 million in state funds. The balance would come from federal funds ($37.8 million) and private funds ($9.3 million).

Recognizing that the state currently cannot afford to fund its portion, the task force recommends the state immediately initiate an effort to secure federal grants in the first year of the strategic plan. Additionally, the implementation strategy prioritizes the less expensive actions and draws attention to steps that can be taken at no or low cost to the state.

The full report of the task force, which is co-chaired by William Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, is available at: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/documents/090806stemcellReport.pdf.