Some schools are shutting down their daytime advanced manufacturing and mechatronics programs for lack of students - this at a time that a Deloitte study reports 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs due to lack of skills. Much of the problem can be traced back to a lack of understanding on the part of the public, including parents, teachers and guidance counselors, about manufacturing. A few companies are trying to remedy this, and to them go Kudos.
GE's series of television ads is great! They show workers in clean, high-tech environments making products that make a difference in people's lives. Young people can look at these jobs building jet engines or medical scanners and come to a conclusion that there could be a career path there for them.
Another company that I've mentioned before is Phoenix Contact. This privately held German company sponsors an engineering and science competition for vo-tech, middle and high school students and another for college students. The winning American and German teams in the secondary school competition get to travel to the Hannover Fair to exhibit their projects. Phoenix is the only German company sponsoring American student teams.
This year's competition, which I was again privileged to judge, started out with 7 teams that were whittled down to three for the final round. Phoenix provides each team with a Nanoline PLC kit, $200, an engineer who serves as a mentor, and any other Phoenix products that the team can use. Work starts in October and culminates in February. Each team must develop a project using the PLC. This year's winning team, from Infinity Charter Middle School of Penbrook, PA, developed a Smart Mobile Solar Charging Station that automatically tracked the sun using sensors and motorized positioning equipment.
Each year of this competition, the projects get better and the students get more professional. The students learn how to apply math and science, the importance of time management, how to work in a team and how to innovate. And, they learn a bit about manufacturing automation.
I know other companies are sponsoring similar programs to attract young people into engineering, science and manufacturing. These programs need to be aimed at young teenagers and not just to the college-bound. We need good operators and technicians too. Responsible companies are also spending time and money to train their existing employees. Let my readers hear about best practices that you have seen. And when you find a company or individual who is doing something to promote science, engineering, and manufacturing, don't forget to thank them.
To your point about getting the word out, one of the casualties of staffing cuts in local high schools has been the elimination of guidance counselors. It's going to take some creativity to let these young folks know that mechatronics and other non-college paths are viable options.
Posted by: Andy Malcolm on February 29, 2012
Hope all is well,
Posted by: Don Neumeister on February 29, 2012