February 1, 2023

The Lynchpin of Success

southern maryland higher education center

Posted by the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center
Leading Edge

The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC) has become such a part of the daily fabric of educational and professional life in the region that it’s easy to forget that the institution is only 16 years old.

It’s also easy to forget that the Center was founded to support the expansion of Naval Air Station Patuxent River to support the influx of workers that came to the region with the transfer of the Naval Air Systems Command to the base in the mid-1990s.

SMHEC was established by State legislation in 1994 to provide enhanced access to graduate education and to support the expanding economic development and growth of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties. SMHEC opened its doors for its first classes in the fall of 1995.

As a result of the Base Realignment And Closure process in the 1990’s initiating and supporting the creation of SMHEC, the expanded role of the U. S. Navy at Pax River, the opportunity to advance the Tri-County Region as a high technology area, the development of SMHEC as the first institution of higher education to offer graduate and upper division professional level programs to the citizens of Southern Maryland, and the projections of continuing population workforce growth for the three counties, the role of SMHEC has required significant expansion.

Thus, the present mission of SMHEC includes providing a comprehensive array of quality graduate and upper-level undergraduate education academic degrees to the citizens of the Region, promoting a climate of cooperation between SMHEC’s university partners and local governments and businesses, contributing to the advancement of the Region’s knowledge workforce to a level comparable to that of the State of Maryland, providing opportunities for continuing professional development through the doctoral level to a high-technology workforce, and facilitating the continuing economic development of the three counties in Southern Maryland.

One of the assumptions driving SMHEC’s growth and planning is that State and local political leaders in the three Southern Maryland counties agree that the successful economy of the future will be closely matched to technology. Of critical importance will be the ability of the region to convert or apply rapidly that technology to the needs of the area’s citizens in the form of new businesses, more efficient services, and an improvement of the quality of life in the region. To this end, SMHEC facilitates cooperative projects and entrepreneurial activities, and provides a means for enhancing the environment for the creation, growth and expansion of technology-based business in Southern Maryland.

Another mission of SMHEC is the hosting of short-term training programs, expositions, conferences, and meetings of a wide variety focusing on training responding to new project management strategies at Pax River, oversight of the production of naval aircraft and supporting equipment, acquisitions management in the range of $34 billion, and technical processes and quality control strategies.

Demonstrating SMHEC’s role in responding to the BRAC process, 93 of the 259 training programs in FY 2011 were held by and for Base personnel. The number of individuals included in SMHEC’s training programs during FY 2011 was 3,991 individuals benefiting from 10,946 person days of training.

SMHEC has as its principle mission support of the BRAC process that includes a workforce of 30,000 associated with the Naval Air Command headquartered at Pax River. The Base includes the Navy’s national testing and evaluation programs, research and development programs, and the aircraft and aircraft systems acquisitions $33 billion mission for the nation’s naval air program. SMHEC’s academic programs support the professional development needs of a workforce of 22,000 personnel located on the Base, and an additional workforce of 8,000 employed by 250 defense contractors supporting the Base.

SMHEC is the core and catalyst for the provision of quality continuing professional education and the presentation of local training and national meetings needed to coordinate and achieve the mission of the U. S. Navy’s air command. Demonstrating the current and growing impact of SMHEC’s presence is the high level of academic and training activity taking place at SMHEC. By example, in FY 2011, SMHEC presented 291 university seminars and 3,412 class enrollments. In addition, some 722 training, conference and community programs took place at SMHEC during FY 2011, involving 28,477 individuals in 37,772 person-days of instruction.

According to a number of Department of Defense reports and a report issued by the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland (the regional planning agency for the Region), 22,200 employees are currently working at the Base, in approximately 46 different commands, undertaking a broad range of materials and avionics research and development, testing and evaluation of naval aircraft and avionics weapons and equipment, and management of the acquisitions of some $36 billion annually in support of the US Navy’s world-wide aviation mission. The BRAC process in the early nineties had transferred some 6,000 knowledge workers to Pax River.

An additional 8,000 knowledge workers employed by 202 defense contractors located principally in St. Mary’s County, are supporting the Patuxent Naval Air Station and its research and development, testing and evaluation mission. There are an additional 4,200 high technology jobs in the county not associated with the Base. The Patuxent River Naval Air Station also supports 4,500 retired military personnel and their dependents.

It might be noted that the employment level at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station was 12,100 in 1994, rising to 18,600 in 2001, to 20,200 in 2005, and to 22,200 in 2007. Approximately 2,000 individuals at the Base are military personnel, and 20,000 are civilians. According to reports from the Base, the average salary for civilian personnel at the Base is $74,317.

SMHEC’s role as a BRAC graduate education and training support facility for the Patuxent River Naval Air Station is central to its proposal for the design, construction and furnishing of SMHEC’s Classroom and Engineering Building III.  In FY 2011 a total of 3,991 employees of the Base attended training and conference programs at SMHEC, with 10,946 person-days of attendance.

During FY 2011, some 835 class enrollments were recorded in engineering and technology classes at SMHEC, in 209 seminars in engineering and technology degree programs offered by five universities at SMHEC.  Almost all of these enrollments are by personnel working on the Base.

Pax River has become a major partner of SMHEC.  While SMHEC requires revenues from rentals of its meeting spaces to meet costs of operations (as required by its enabling legislation), the base requires adequate meeting spaces in Southern Maryland for the continued professional development of its 22,200 personnel, NAVAIR’s implementation of the Department of Defense’s management initiatives, and the development of staff for the 202 defense contractors supporting the testing and evaluation mission of the Base.

It should be noted that the Patuxent River Naval Air Station is also the headquarters for NAVAIR’s 3,000 acquisitions personnel, with responsibilities for the annual procurement of $34 billion worth of naval aircraft and naval aviation systems.

The positioning of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station as a successful competitor for the extensive research and evaluation of almost a dozen major testing and evaluation projects of critical importance to the current and future defense of the nation, including the Joint Strike Fighter evaluation and development is partly due to SMHEC’s presence.

www.smhec.org

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