Investing in workforce skills training

The message is clear: Maryland has a workforce challenge, and creating pathways for in-demand, high-paying, jobs is essential to rejuvenating a stagnant economy that has been overly reliant on legacy strategies requiring the attention of state lawmakers and industry leaders.

Comptroller Brooke Lierman’s State of the Economy report revealed that Maryland’s job growth has been stagnant. We are losing young workers to surrounding states despite a highly educated workforce and above average household incomes. Maryland ranks second to last in America for its percentage of job growth, declining -0.7% versus the national average of +4.8% from 2017 to 2022, as evidenced by a recent Maryland Chamber of Commerce study.

The scientific industry is a cornerstone of the state’s economic foundation. Maryland has become a hub for biopharma manufacturing, with world-class companies developing new vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies for cancer, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, and various rare diseases. Maryland’s life science industry contributed to more than 2,700 firms that employ 54,000 people in the state and generates nearly $20 billion in economic activity.

While Maryland’s life sciences employment is high, it has grown significantly slower compared to peer states, and is losing to competing jurisdictions actively exploring new initiatives to diversify their economies. For example, North Carolina plans to add 8,000 biopharma workers in the next three years, and Virginia just announced a $90 million plan to build a “Virginia Research Triangle.”

For the five-year period of 2018-2022, Maryland lost out on an estimated $500 million in employee income, having an annual negative impact on Maryland’s GDP of $1.3 billion.

Eighty percent of pharmaceutical manufacturers report a mismatch between the skills they need and the U.S. workforce. Maryland is no exception. Many of those needed skillsets don’t require a Ph.D. for a well-paying career in life sciences. One out of every three biotech job postings in Maryland last year did not require an undergraduate degree – that’s more than 6,000 jobs available to Marylanders with high school diplomas, associate degrees, or other alternative educational backgrounds.

To build a strong job growth trajectory, it is critical to provide Maryland’s workforce with the specific, in-demand, skills needed to continue growth in a critical sector of scientific development.

For example, an initiative from the Maryland Tech Council, BioHub Maryland, has launched a biopharma manufacturing skills training agreement with the National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training to utilize NIBRT’s training programs to upskill thousands of residents, focusing on military veterans and residents from underserved communities, so they can immediately add value to the workplace.

These initiatives, coupled with increased incubation of promising next generation scientific companies, will bolster the state’s life sciences industry with premier talent and accessible labor pools to support the growth and expansion of Maryland’s biotech ecosystem.


Matt Brady is principal & executive vice president of Scheer Partners. Devin Zitelman is director, scientific real estate advisory services at Scheer Partners, a commercial real estate firm specializing in the life sciences industry.