The growing skills gap is causing trepidation among manufacturers and the lack of millennials building careers within the industry is part of the concern. According to the Pew Research Center, I fall within the millennial generation. My career path within manufacturing has been an exciting one.
However, in my early career, I had well-intentioned people advise me to stay away from manufacturing because they believed it was dirty, dangerous and antiquated, without new or interesting challenges. Those of us from the industry know that image of manufacturing is not accurate.
Nevertheless, it is a perception that people commonly have. I doubt that “dirty and dangerous” has a significant impact on people’s choice. However, the part about being antiquated, without new or interesting challenges, may lead people to second guess a career in manufacturing.
We millennials are technology natives; therefore, many of us are comfortable with and enjoy working within the digital world. We also like to roll up our sleeves and work on challenging problems in the physical world. In this article, I use my experiences to outline an example for a technology-focused career path in manufacturing and present some thoughts about reaching and attracting young talent.
Every year, SME recognizes young professionals who are doing noteworthy work within the field of manufacturing engineering with its Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award. As I scan the list of recipients in recent years, I see many millennials who are making a tremendous impact on manufacturing and have the foundation for amazing careers.
I was honored to have received this award in 2016. Prior to receiving the award, I earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, was a testing and development engineer at Caterpillar, earned a doctorate in automotive engineering at Clemson University and was an advanced manufacturing engineer at GE Power. The work I was doing in data acquisition, from manufacturing equipment and analysis, was a factor in my nomination for the award.
Since receiving the award, I have been an industry solution director at GE Digital, and I am currently the vice president of engineering at a startup called Praemo. Both of those recent roles have centered on the application of digital technology within manufacturing and have enabled me to step out as a thought leader within that space.
In my case, I was working in manufacturing first and then saw the need for digital technologies. For much of my career, there has not been a defined role for the work I was doing. As the industry has begun to define those roles, it is finding a shortage of people who have the desired knowledge and experience to fill them. These people should want to work in manufacturing and have an aptitude for working with new technology. The technology part is common among millennials; we must work to attract them to manufacturing.
To reach and attract rising talent, I have worked with undergraduate and graduate-level college students on manufacturing research projects for many years. I continue to do this today and recently have also had the pleasure to mentor a high school student on a robotic design project.
I am also on an industrial advisory board for a new graduate program that Clemson University is starting with a National Science Foundation grant. The program is called Technology-Human INtegrated Knowledge Education and Research (THINKER), and it will bring graduate, undergraduate and technical college students together to learn about topics related to and conduct research within advanced manufacturing. These activities have the potential to make a lasting impact on the attractiveness of technology careers in manufacturing, but we need to find ways to do more.
In conclusion, manufacturing and technology have been important in my life. Early engagement with the next-generation workforce can bring individuals to manufacturing, but we need to do more to reach and engage rising talent. Introducing future manufacturing engineers to SME is a great way to expose them to the technologies and people that are making an impact. Let’s continue the discussion on social media. The best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/andyhend).
SME and the SME Education Foundation announced in early January that Rob Luce is the new vice president of the SME Education Foundation. In his role, Luce will be responsible for overall day-to-day leadership and strategic direction of the Foundation.
Luce formerly served as executive director of the Detroit Region Aerotropolis Development Corp. He has also been director of MICHauto and Automotive Retention & Growth at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Prior to joining the chamber, Luce was a legislative aide in the Michigan State Senate and served as fundraising director for a State Senate Campaign.
Luce assumed his new role on Jan. 2. To learn more about the SME Education Foundation, visit smeef.org.
The Lean Certification Alliance, a partnership of three leading nonprofit organizations (Association for Manufacturing Excellence, the Shingo Institute and SME), have revealed a new endorser partner—the Canadian Society for Quality, a nonprofit, membership-based organization that promotes quality improvement and business excellence principles.
Endorsers support the Lean Certification Program and the alliance’s mission of setting the standard for operational excellence and improving the workforce. Endorsers also enhance the alliance’s abilities to reach new markets and cultivate a strong community of continuous improvement practitioners.
The Lean Certification Alliance created and maintains the Lean Certification Program and offers high-quality training, education and other relevant resources to facilitate the continuous improvement journey. You can find more information on SME’s Certification programs at sme.org/certification.
Now in its fourth year, SME’s Corporate Membership Program currently has 18 members. Its associated Institutional Group Program, launched in 2017, has 14 members. These customized programs connect companies and educational institutions to thousands of professionals within all disciplines of manufacturing, expanding access to expertise and engagement.
Joining recently are new corporate/institutional members 3D Printing Networks Inc., Mississaugua, Ontario, Canada, and Fullerton College, Fullerton, Calif. 3D Printing Networks offers a comprehensive online retail store for 3D printing materials. Fullerton College is the oldest community college in continuous operation in California. SME is also happy to announce that Oak Ridge National Lab, Oak Ridge, Tenn., recently renewed its corporate membership. ORNL is the largest U.S. Department of Energy science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.
Anyone interested in a corporate or institutional group membership can contact email@example.com or visit sme.org/corporate-membership.
SME offers students the opportunity to participate in various challenges throughout the U.S. to inspire, prepare and support future generations in advanced manufacturing. Challenges include:
View the complete list of student challenges at sme.org/education/students.