Business goes to school

Companies, colleges work together to better educate students

By MIKE LEWIS
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

Most days, Regina Twigg is a professor of nursing, helping teach Towson University students at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

Some days, she’s a working nurse, providing care at a Maryland trauma center.

One role supports the other, she said. She stays current with nursing students and the health care facilities that will employ them.

“We see what’s going on at the bedside, what the employers are looking for,” she said.

There’s a big push in the state of Maryland for hospitals and academia to work better together, she said.

It’s a phenomenon found in other fields, too, from providing insurance to securing computer networks to driving trucks. A quick survey in the Crossroads Business Journal area turned up some of the many examples of teamwork between the classroom and the workplace.

Twigg, for example, pointed out that one of her fellow professors works at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, Md., and is able to share her experiences with pupils.

And the program brings in people from hospitals in Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., and Chambersburg, Pa., to share information “so it’s not just us talking to the students.”

“You’ve got to keep current,” Twigg said. “… The dean is very supportive of us doing that.”

The hospital also has been supportive and flexible with her schedules so she can fill both roles, Twigg said.

 

‘Develop the skill sets’

Meanwhile, Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., is developing a risk management and insurance program at the suggestion of — and help from —  Farmers and Mechanics Insurance Cos., which is headquartered in Martinsburg, W.Va. The goal is to help address a projected need for insurance professionals.

According to the university, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Jacobson Group, an insurance recruiting watchdog, potentially 400,000 positions will go unfilled.

“Our goal is to educate students about the wide variety of careers available throughout the RMI industry,” Ben Martz, dean of the Shepherd business college, said in a news release. “The program will have a set of integrated activities, including a scholarship program, to help students develop the skill sets needed to succeed in the RMI area.”

 

‘Saving students money and time’

Skill sets are needed in cybersecurity, too, and programs are growing throughout the region. Some people in Frederick County, Md., are taking steps to see that three programs grow together.

Frederick Community College, Mount St. Mary’s University and Hood College recently announced that they will provide a unified degree pathway into the field. The cybersecurity associate degree at FCC will offer courses that transfer to the Mount toward a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. And the cybersecurity curriculum at the Mount will transfer toward a master’s degree in cybersecurity at Hood.

“This unique partnership will help ensure our country’s security by providing local, regional and national companies with well-trained cybersecurity professionals,” Mount St. Mary’s University President Timothy E. Trainor said in a news release. “The Mount is excited to welcome students who begin their higher education at FCC and then encourage our graduates in cybersecurity to pursue advanced studies at Hood.”

The three parties will establish a series of collaborative programs, events and activities.

“An important component of this agreement is the strategic advising aspect,” Andrea Chapdelaine, president of Hood College, said in the release. “Academic advisers at each school will know the steps needed for the next degree, ensuring timely completion of each degree, ultimately saving students money and time.”

In addition, the partnership is working to foster relationships with the local business community.

Cybersecurity is a growing field with an anticipated 6 million jobs globally by 2019, according to the Palo Alto Research Center and Symantec. Further, cyber experts predict a 100 percent cybersecurity employment rate through 2021.

 

‘Talking to companies’

Hagerstown Community College offers a range of classes that don’t lead to a degree, but a license or certification.

Keeping those programs in line with employers’ needs means “a lot of going out and talking to companies,” said Theresa Shank, dean of continuing education and workforce development at HCC.

Among other programs, HCC offers classes for people to become professional truck drivers — another growing field with many openings in this area.

Shank sits on the boards of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Washington County Economic Development Commission. She said it’s important to work with agencies, such as the county’s Department of Business Development, groups of companies that make up economic sectors and individual firms.

“We’re finding that we’re really partnering a lot better in this region,” she said.