UpFront: Our Workforce Development Challenge
By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief
When you hear so much concern—and so often—about the skills shortage in US manufacturing, it’s easy to start feeling a little down about our prospects for the future.
In this special Workforce Development issue, you will read about our nation’s very serious, economy-threatening workforce development challenges. A story in this month's NewsDesk says the problem, unfortunately, is getting worse.
But after reading about the rising young talent in our inaugural 30 Under 30 issue, I hope you feel a bit better. Because there are exceptional young people already doing important work in manufacturing, and in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields that underpin our industry.
From 14-year-olds who are developing life-improving ideas that have already resulted in patents to 20-something professionals who are overseeing global projects and resolving complex software communications challenges between manufacturing machines, it is clear that the US continues to develop creative, competent leaders. We at Manufacturing Engineering tip our collective hat to these inspiring young people.
Now, we need to tap into the magic formula that created them and try to develop more manufacturing hopefuls. To that end, a few things do stand out after reading the nominations. While there are surely challenges in manufacturing education, especially a modern culture that values so many things over STEM fields, there are many pockets of activity where STEM-inclined young people do have support and, perhaps more importantly, are supporting each other. Many of the young people shared common threads in their participation in FIRST Robotics Competitions, FIRST LEGO Leagues and similar programs where they found joy in competing to solve problems and the process of making things—together.
There has been an important development in this area: the nation is now very aware of the need to develop more STEM-competent workers. Nearly every day, there are news reports on the problem and local, regional and national efforts to solve it.
I also feel compelled to address the issue of women in manufacturing here. In a report earlier this year, the consultancy Deloitte concluded that women are the largest untapped resource that the industry can employ to resolve its workforce challenges. You will notice as you flip through our pages that there are some noteable young women in the pipeline. Can manufacturing keep them hooked? Only time will tell.
This article was first published in the July 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.