In the heyday of manufacturing, there was a distinction between line workers and office workers. The blue collars were generally high school graduates who excelled at their jobs and retired with good pensions. The managerial teams were mostly made up of those college graduates who majored in business. In the last 30 years or so, many things have changed and the manufacturing model of the past is, well, the past. Today’s manufacturing environment is evolving beyond colors and is ready to be reinvigorated.
Have you heard of STEM?
The Obama administration’s Educate to Innovate campaign aims to increase our children’s math and science achievements. Education leaders realized that our students were weak in areas that would lead to higher-paying, more rewarding jobs in technology fields. In order to strengthen manufacturing and industry in the U.S., STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education programs were developed to address this need.
Districts across the country are starting STEM schools and programs to focus on, and foster, a love of the sciences at the elementary levels. STEM is an extension of a child’s natural curiosity and having teachers who embrace the sciences should encourage the next generation to pursue careers in technological fields. And, many colleges are starting programs that are designed specifically for specialized technology fields like manufacturing. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, STEM plays a role in the 10 fastest growing occupations.
Can STEM make a difference?
We are already feeling the pinch of labor shortages in the manufacturing industry. There are jobs going unfilled because candidates don’t possess the skills or have the right training. The STEM educational goals should benefit manufacturing directly. STEM concepts are what manufacturing is about: problem solving, exploring concepts and ideas, turning ideas into realities, and making something work. It is the basis of invention and ingenuity that we haven’t truly fostered in our children in decades.
Americans may not currently rank on top in terms of math and science achievements compared to kids in Asia and Europe but we are still free thinkers who can get out of that proverbial box. Manufacturing today requires computer skills for running automations systems and mechanical skills to create innovative and pioneering machinery. The time is right to make manufacturing a skill set that will lead to worthwhile jobs and STEM education is a great first step.