Several months ago, I attended a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) event in El Paso, TX. Two of my electronics manufacturing services clients provided me with video, photos and sample printed circuit boards to use in a display about manufacturing. IPC and SMTA also provided materials. My October 2015 article in Circuits Assembly asks the question: Are manufacturers engaged enough?
This is an area I continue to question. With the cost of college, I honestly believe that it is very important for students to walk into to college with a good idea of the job options related to their chosen degree program and a roadmap for internships and/or co-op programs that can help them build a network during college that leads to job offers once they get a degree. Not everyone agrees with me. The educators I’ve discussed this with tend to feel that students should not be this focused. One even went so far as to say that it isn’t the university’s role to train students for private industry. To me, that shows the magnitude of the disconnect. My thoughts on focus and employer engagement weren’t that a university should be training people to the whims of employers, but that students paying $40-$60K for a degree should have a reasonable expectation that they were leaving college with marketable job skills and hopefully a path to a job that doesn’t involve a hairnet and French fries.
What do you think? Feel free to leave comments.
I’ll be out at the 5-Star S.T.E.M. Competition at Ft. Bliss, Sat. March 21st with a table talking up manufacturing engineering career options. The event is focused on Middle and High School students. Officials from Ft. Bliss will be judging their science projects. I’ve had a lot of support from SMTA and IPC. A couple of clients are allowing me to use photos of their manufacturing operations in a slide presentation and a local client has loaned PCBAs. Marie Cole over at IBM was very helpful suggesting a list of resources that both younger students and college-bound kids should consider. The one tip she had that I thought was particularly brilliant was to suggest that as part of college tours, that kids stop by the Career Center and see what internship or co-op/work study programs were being offered by employers through that center and factor that into their college choice plans.
Why support an event like this? The big reason that if kids aren’t exposed to manufacturing as a career path, they probably aren’t going to think about it and there are engineering shortages. And, I want to give a little back to an industry that paid for my Master’s degree and has kept relatively nice roofs over my head for the last three decades. To me, manufacturing is an economic engine that provides jobs that help people grow skills. I don’t see the same breadth of opportunities for growth present in the service sector. I think Henry Ford had it right when he pointed out that he was paying good wages to his factory workers because he could afford to build more cars than the rich could buy and he wanted to help create a middle class that would consume his company’s products. I’ll blog more about the resource links I share at the event and the feedback I get from the kids. Bottom line, if there are S.T.E.M events in your area, consider sharing a presentation about careers in manufacturing. The best way to attract the next generation of engineers is to talk about manufacturing when they are still thinking about what they want to do in life.