Fairchild Industries Inc. and the University of Maryland will announce today the establishment of a joint engineering program to train students for the communications and systems and software engineering fields.

The program, which will begin in January, will offer a two-year master's in electrical engineering degree to 15 students. Fairchild, the Germantown-based aerospace, defense and communications company, will provide the full $480,000 funding for a minimum of two years.

As part of the Fairchild Scholars program, the participants will receive a full scholarship and will work three days a week at the Fairchild Germantown facility and take graduate courses at the College Park campus two days a week.

"Fairchild views the scholarship program as a dramatic step in finding a potential solution to the critical shortage of leaders in science and technology," said Fairchild Senior Vice President Emanuel Fthenakis.

The idea for the program came out of conversations between Fairchild President John Dealy and University of Maryland President John Toll when they accompanied Gov. Harry Hughes to China this year.

Some educators and industry experts say the nation is having a problem keeping interest in engineering education, despite the fact that enrollments are rising at colleges and universities. Partially as a result private industry is having a hard time finding enough highly trained specialists in engineering and computer fields. Officials of Fairchild and the University of Maryland say these problems prompted the establishment of the program.

The program will be run by the university's Electrical Engineering Department in conjunction with the Computer Science Department.