Creating a Maryland Aerospace Organization
by Charles J. Divine and Dr. Donald P. McErlean
for the Industry Collaboration Committee
An organization to represent Maryland's vital aerospace industry is essential for the continued health and future expansion of this important field. Not only are there well known institutions such as Goddard Space Flight Center, Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory and Space Telescope Science Institute, Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River and NOAA, there are numerous employers that provide challenging, highly rewarded employment for thousands of Marylanders. A key challenge will be to create an organization that has the potential to become a valued and respected support system for Maryland’s scientific, workforce development and economic development initiatives in the aerospace industry.
At the present time there is no statewide organization to represent the industry to either elected officials of Maryland State Government or the people of Maryland, especially youth and the educators who will prepare them for employment in this industry. One major consequence is that young people are not prepared for work in this dynamic, growing industry. Another major consequence is that the political sphere is neither ready to assist where needed nor to benefit from developments in aerospace. Other states, especially California, Texas, Ohio and Florida are already working to strengthen their existing aerospace industry. Some states, for example New Mexico with its plans to develop space tourism, are seeking to become key future players.
We already have the beginnings of such an organization in our state. Two sections of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Baltimore Section and the National Capital Section, are active in multiple ways. Politically both sections support Congressional Visits Day, an effort where members come to Washington, DC and present topics of interest to members of Congress and their staffs. They are also active in various educational activities ranging from National Engineers Week to helping with student projects to public lectures. A nationwide volunteer organization, the National Space Society, supports public education activities with two chapters in Maryland. Other organizations that support the aerospace industry include the Maryland Space Business Roundtable, the Maryland Aviation Museum and the Maryland Space Grant Consortium. Major corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman support various educational efforts. The objective of Aerospace Industry Initiative of the Governor's Workforce Investment Board is to bring these various groups together into a unified organization with the directed purpose of strengthening the workforce and educational programs that support aerospace.
By bringing these various groups together we will strengthen the field and address workforce problems. For example, many have observed that young people lose interest in science and technology generally during their high school years. Some have also noted that the preparation students receive in academia does not well meet the needs of industry. Our sector of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board has noted these lacks and is developing a plan to address them through educational efforts aimed at the young. Still another factor confronting the industry is the problem of housing and, related to that, the cost of living faced by younger, entry level workers. A single, strong voice to advance common positions will provide unified support to these issues.
We have taken the first steps towards bringing the various parts of Maryland's aerospace efforts together. The next step we must take is to organize the representatives from the various sectors to work together to solve our problems and advocate further actions that must be taken by responsible political officials. We will begin by inviting people from the sectors already identified to attend meetings organized by this committee. This will be our initial focus and statement of purpose for the next year.