The Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) , partnering with HR&A Advisors of Washington, D.C., is currently conducting a study on behalf of the Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation (MCCEI) . The aim of the study is to understand the gap between the demand from the Maryland construction industry for Bachelor’s degree holders and the number of Bachelor’s degree graduates in the construction/built environment field that academic institutions in Maryland produce. This study builds on MCCEI’s study published in 2012 entitled “The Critical Path,” which outlined the major trends of the construction industry in Maryland.
To complete this research, the project team created and implemented a comprehensive methodology using the following methods:
- A review of the existing data,
- A survey of the firms in the construction industry in Maryland,
- Interviews with firms in the construction industry in Maryland, and
- Interviews with in-state academic institutions offering Bachelor’s degree programs in the construction/built environment field.
Using these methods, RESI and HR&A Advisors began conducting this research in September 2014. Shortly after analyzing the survey responses, the project team quickly noticed that several major employers in the construction industry in Maryland were hiring a large number of construction/built environment graduates from the same out-of-state schools. To gain a better understanding of the what these out-of-state schools were doing to attract students to their programs and to have out-of-state employers recruit their students post-graduation, RESI added onsite visits to these best practice institutions to the project. These onsite visits served to reveal what makes their Bachelor’s degree programs in the construction/built environment field special.
In total, RESI visited four out-of-state institutions including Drexel University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Penn State–Harrisburg, and the Penn College of Technology. Each institution—as well as their numerous program offerings—had its own unique characteristics that would be attractive for incoming students. Each program provided its students with a unique advantage that would enable their graduates to be marketable in a competitive labor market post-graduation. The overarching similarity amongst these programs was providing their students with access to industry representatives in a number of ways, starting at the beginning of the program. This industry engagement enables the students to understand what aspects of the industry that they were interested in (or not interested in) as well as make contacts and effectively network themselves to potential future employers. How these individual students function as employees in the Maryland construction industry is unknown. However, many Maryland construction industry firms regularly attend recruitment events at these institutions, supporting the notion that their alumni are transitioning to employment well.
The remainder of the study will focus on conducting a gap analysis and, specifically from these visits, forming recommendations to make the construction/built environment programs at in-state academic institutions more attractive to new students and to make their graduates more attractive to employers. The long-term aim is to retain the talent educated in the state in the Maryland construction industry.