APG leaders detail needs to higher education community
Gary Martin, Research, Development and Engineering Command executive deputy to the commanding general, briefs local area academics Apr. 28 on emerging workforce development needs and upcoming areas of interest at Aberdeen Proving Ground in the near future.

ABERDEEN, Md. -- Aberdeen Proving Ground senior leaders met with representatives of regional educational instiutions Apr. 28 to discuss ways the higher education community can help meet the existing and emerging workforce needs of organizations on the installation.

University, college, and other educational representatives packed the Higher Education & Conference Center in Aberdeen, Md., to attend an Advance Planning Briefing for Education. Similar in concept to a traditional acquisition focused Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry, leaders from the installation highlighted missions, functions, and insights of future needs. However, in this case, the future needs were not focused on future procurements but on the educational development of the future workforce.

Central to the first-of-its-kind discussion was a panel consisting of leadership from Headquarters, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; its Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; its Army Research Laboratory; and the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. Also in attendance was the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Tactical and the U.S. Army Public Health Command. They detailed expected workforce challenges caused by realignment and a forthcoming retirement boom.

"We're at a point now where the (educational) demand is about to exceed the capacity that has been established in previous years," said Gary Martin, RDECOM executive deputy to the commanding general. "We can tell you some of the major skills areas we're going to need and we can highlight some anticipated programs of interest."

Anything more specific than that would be a guessing game at this point because, according to Martin, APG organizations involved in BRAC won't know what jobs are actually available until transfers take place from their current locations and identifying employee retirements based on eligibility dates is only speculation. Setting the conditions for success now, however, will help avoid any serious problems when those two events occur.

Beacon Associates, a human resources consulting firm, recently completed a study concerning how BRAC and future retirements will affect the post. "Approximately 35 percent of the current workforce is eligible to retire within five years and it is estimated that only 50 percent of the incumbents from other installations will actually make the move to APG," said Carol Koffinke, the company's president and chief executive officer.

Koffinke found that local colleges and universities current curriculum is only partly prepared to address the eventual employee exodus. She recommends that school officials proactively work to adjust by developing stronger marketing efforts, strengthening relationships with key personnel at APG and partnering with government agencies.

Local universities have started reaching out to APG. RDECOM and the University of Delaware entered into a formal partnership this January when they signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. The University of Maryland at College Park and Morgan State University have both established relationships with individual organizations on the installation and RDECOM is also working on formal agreements with both.

The Army has been forming relationships with students for years and APG employs dozens of students as part of the Student Career Experience Program and the Student Temporary Employment Program. "These programs can span a student's college career and generally transition into employment with the government," said Brian Simmons, ATEC director.

"We pay back undergrad student loans up to $10,000 per year, we task new employees to go back to grad school and we offer sabbaticals at the end," Simmons said. Employees that return to graduate school in preferred areas of interest can be reimbursed for the cost. Typical areas of interest are primarily the different engineering specialties, but also include budget analysis and contracting. There are also needs that must be accounted for as technology continues to grow.

"There are some emerging needs that we're seeing that need to be filled," said Dr. Gerardo Melendez, director, CERDEC Command and Control Directorate. "As we continue to grow our network we need information assurance operations for defense from attack and a big push right now is to bring in smart phones as a tactical edge for the Army."

The science and technology leaders are asking for help from surrounding colleges and universities to respond to these emerging trends. "First and foremost if your core competencies and areas of expertise match ours then we have a good foundation for which to build on," Melendez said.

Practical requests included providing classes closer to APG at accommodating hours, understanding that students are going to have a demanding job working with the government while at graduate school, and Simmons said most organizations need help recruiting and suggested academia help to improve on that area. "Help us connect the dots to public service," he said.

Melendez hopes the local area higher education community becomes more proactive in assisting APG because he would like to develop a hiring ground. "When I need to hire new engineers and scientists I'll already have a good relationship, a linking, and a common understanding on what our needs are."

Representatives from the educational community had the opportunity to express concerns to installation leadership. These concerns focused on the security clearance process and a lack of facilities provided by APG available for educational purposes, which Martin said would be addressed soon. "We have targeted specific buildings opening up for education programs and workforce development."

As APG goes "BRAC to the Future," the theme of the event, APG leaders wanted to leave one basic message. Working for the Army is challenging, rewarding, exciting, and valuable to the country and this region; and it is only through a working partnership with the regional educational community that the installation can meet its workforce development needs.

"I've seen more of a shift in student's motivation to giving back to the community and giving back to the country and that aligns perfectly with our motivation," Melendez said.

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Page last updated Wed May 5th, 2010 at 10:34