ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Base Realignment and Closure will significantly increase the need for higher-education programs near APG, Army and Maryland state officials said here March 8.

Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, APG senior commander, encouraged the development of an infrastructure in Harford County to accommodate the needs of scientists and engineers coming to the area.

"Maryland has an incredible opportunity," Justice said. "Government, industry and academic collaboration is incredibly valuable as a catalyst for innovation."

"There is going to be a very strong demand here for graduate education. The opportunity is knocking; it's just what strategy do you want to attack it with," he said.

APG leaders met with officials from the University System of Maryland, Maryland Higher Edcuation Commission, Governor's Subcabinet on BRAC and St. John Properties to ensure the state can support the growing demand for advanced degrees.

Gary Martin, executive deputy to the commanding general, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, discussed a report issued by local community colleges titled "Workforce Training Initiative." The report addresses the educational needs of the APG workforce.

Martin said the greatest hiring needs will be in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, acquisition logistics and contracting. The biggest need is for master's degree programs.

Several factors will influence the hiring and skill set needs during the next decade at APG, Martin said. The installation expected 25 percent of Fort Monmouth workers to move to APG; however, because of the recession, about 65 percent have transferred.

Martin also said the last Fort Monmouth employees moving to APG will arrive by July. Also, about 40 percent of Department of the Army civilians at APG will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.

Brit Kirwan, University System of Maryland chancellor, said his schools are prepared to provide the necessary courses and degree programs to APG workers.

"Obviously, we see this as a huge opportunity. We're ready to do whatever is needed up here," Kirwan said. "In partnership with other institutions in the state, we're ready to play whatever role is needed."

Kirwan noted that University of Maryland University College offers courses on APG, and Harford Community College opened a classroom in September 2010 outside the installation's Route 715 gate. He also said University System of Maryland Board of Regents recently announced that building a better-educated science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM, workforce in the state is one of its key initiatives.

The group plans to meet again in early May to discuss its progress.