Loudoun Benefits from Bond Between Business, Higher Education

Brian Tinsman
Digital Properties Manager

 

Loudoun County is home to seven institutions of higher education, providing undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education opportunities to our highly skilled workforce.

“One of the keys in today’s competitive business environment is helping with workforce and staffing,” Loudoun’s Business Development Officer Rick Morris said. “For all of these universities to serve as a feeder program to our businesses in terms of workforce, is incredibly important.”

Loudoun businesses that focus on cyber security, health care, information, communication and technology, analytics benefit the most from the availability of academia. In some cases, that need is critical.

“Governor Terry McAuliffe said recently that Virginia has a deficit of 36,000 cyber security jobs that can’t be filled,” Morris said. So the Loudoun business community got to work finding a solution.

In October 2015, Telos Corp. teamed with George Washington University’s Science and Technology campus in Ashburn to create the Center for Data Analytics. The five-year partnership provides support for research and development projects that find digital solutions to key issues of national significance.

“The partnership with Telos demonstrates how academia and a leading industry corporation can come together to address issues that affect so many in our society,” said Ali Eskandarian, dean of the campus. “In Telos, one of our neighbors and one of the premier companies in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are fortunate to have a partner with equal commitment to advance the economic development of the region.”

In the last year, Northern Virginia Community College has also launched a certified cyber security program that will help address the industry needs. This initiative was also spearheaded by the business community, through the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

NVCC has a campus in Sterling, one of 23 branches in one of the largest colleges in the United States, which has more than 75,000 students enrolled.

Shenandoah University has a campus in Leesburg that specializes in training for nurses and doctors. With the rapid growth of Inova Loudoun Hospital and StoneSprings Hospital Center in Loudoun, these programs play a key role in workforce development.

“More than 60 percent of Loudoun’s population already has a college degree, and these institutions just strengthen our workforce and labor pool,” Morris noted. “With such a workplace emphasis on continuing education, to be able to do that in close proximity to where you live, work and play, really benefits this community.”

The schools also provided a place for business ideas to incubate and grow, where entrepreneurs can take advantage of the research facilities.

George Mason University co-locates on the NVCC campus in Sterling but also provides a co-locating service to startups and entrepreneurs at the Mason Enterprise Center in Leesburg.

The MEC is a great partner to the small business community, mentoring and incubating companies like Omnilert, and hosting such programs as the Small Business Development Center, Loudoun Small Business Conference, One Million Cups and Loudoun Tech Startups.

Elsewhere, on-campus incubators have provided more targeted opportunities for academic-business collaboration.

“George Washington University also has a computational biology institute that has given rise to Loudoun businesses like Aperiomics,” Morris said. “As we meet with various health companies, the university has asked them if they’d be willing to do various partnerships and joint research together.”

Moving forward, Morris expects more opportunities for collaboration between the higher learning and business communities.

“The universities want to have an active dialogue,” he said, “and they always want to see if there are possibilities that would benefit both the business and the university moving forward.”

 

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