U.S. Manufacturing and STEM Education

For once statistics and data analysis have returned favorable results. The oracles have spoken, and the consensus is that the US is fast on its way to becoming the manufacturing superstar of the modern world.

For every dollar spent on manufacturing, it is currently returning $1.43. A neat profit of around 43%! If this trend doesn’t hit any roadblocks, the memories of the recession may be distant indeed. However, manufacturing goes hand in hand with that engine driving it – innovation.

The US has always been a land of free and inspired thinking but of late a disturbing pattern has started to emerge. On one hand, people are rejoicing the apparent decline in the outsourcing of skilled labor jobs but on the other, the talent consolidation and recruitment firms are lamenting the lack of “qualified” prospects to funnel to interested businesses.

As of early 2014, there were 600,000 vacant manufacturing related positions in the country. And the vast majority of these were seeking qualified prospects. It is the right time to pose the question: “What is the real reason behind this skill gap intensification?”

The answer is not encouraging! The US currently ranks a dismal 27th in math and 20th in general sciences out of the 34 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Students aren’t just under-performing where core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects are concerned, a dishearteningly small percentage of them are going on to pursue STEM careers.

Presently, the United States of America is offering 7.3 million job opportunities to those who are proficient in STEM at an astounding average salary of $82,000. However, this lucrative remuneration isn’t enough to entice students into embracing STEM.

Real initiative is required to combat this problem; otherwise the momentum manufacturing is gathering will culminate into nothing. As a remedial measure the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Manufacturers have collaboratively pioneered Manufacturing Day – a movement geared to engage the young and generate enthusiasm around manufacturing and STEM.

Snap-On Incorporated Chairman and CEO Nicholas T. Pinchuk is advising community college outreach to provide local centers of education with manufacturing specific courses. Still other experts are advocating minority involvement in order to mend matters.

Without consistent, focused drive STEM will not find acceptance among the younger generation looking to take the “easy” way out through college. Unless and until the skill gap is effectively managed and reduced, the US economy will likely not experience the boost it is waiting for.

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