Universities at Shady Grove Joins with Montgomery College, MCPS, Business Leaders to Launch Experiential Learning Cooperative

November 5, 2014

Leadership Gift from Hess Foundation Provides Start-up Funds for Program to Equip Students with Work-ready Skills, On-the-job Experience in Chosen Career Path 

Montgomery County educators and business leaders are teaming up to launch a new Integrated Experiential Learning Cooperative (IELC) that will provide students with continuous opportunities to gain on-the-job experience and work-ready skills in their given fields of study, beginning in high school and continuing throughout their college studies at Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove.

Start-up funding to help launch the initiative is being provided through a $525,000 leadership gift from the Hess Foundation – led by brothers Andy and Chuck Hess, owners and founders of HESS Construction in Gaithersburg, MD.

Among those on hand to announce the program’s launch today at The Universities at Shady Grove were Dr. Stewart Edelstein, executive director of USG and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University System of Maryland; Dr. DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College; Dr. Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools; and members of the Hess family; along with students and an array of community leaders.

“We know from our own life experiences, and from having employed hundreds of people over several decades in the construction industry, how important it is for young people to not only be educated, but to be career-ready when they graduate,” said Chuck Hess, CEO of HESS Construction and President of the Hess Foundation. “It’s vital that students add real-world experience to the work they are doing in the classrooms. That’s why we felt so strongly about helping to launch this joint initiative with a leadership gift that we hope will spur others in our community to provide additional support and similar partnerships with those in our business community.”

The new Integrated Experiential Learning Cooperative (IELC) is designed to provide students along the educational pipeline in Montgomery County – from high school through college – with access to experiential learning experiences in their intended major of study, in a coordinated and progressive fashion. The IELC will help students see the relevance and value of their academics, and gain a better understanding of real work expectations. The three educational partners – MCPS, MC and USG – will each provide a set of integrated experiential learning opportunities that will build upon one another, as participating students advance on their educational path. The initial cohort of 60 MCPS rising seniors will begin in May 2015 and will be selected among students participating in the ACES (Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success) program, which is a joint initiative of MCPS, MC and USG.

 “One of the greatest challenges we face in this region is that there is irrefutable data pointing to a growing shortage in the number of skilled workers available to fill all the jobs that will be needed to fuel our economy,” said Edelstein of USG. “This is why it’s so critical that we, as education partners, work closely and innovatively with our business community to make sure we are doing all we can to prepare a highly educated and trained workforce with job-ready skills that will enable them to hit the ground running.”

“The Hess Foundation’s gift is another step toward strengthening the County’s future workforce by helping students achieve their educational goals from high school to college and, ultimately, their chosen careers,” said MC President Pollard. “With our partners at MCPS, USG and in the business community, we’ll not only educate, but we’ll be catalysts to building resumes as our students transition to professionals.”

 “The generosity of the Hess family is going to make it possible for many of our students to get excellent real-world experience in a career path. It’s this kind of partnership and support that is so essential in ensuring that our community has a capable and qualified workforce for years to come,” said MCPS Superintendent Starr. “The IELC is another example of the exceptional collaboration among MCPS, Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove. Together, we are creating a strong educational pipeline to help our community meet our workforce needs.”

Business leaders and individuals who would like more information about the Integrated Experiential Learning Cooperative are urged to call Julia Rader, director of The Universities at Shady Grove’s Career and Internship Services Office, at 301-738-6063 or via email at

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