Final Observations about STEM

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I’m just returned from The Automation Conference in Chicago where STEM was a frequent topic, prompting these final observations.

Why is there a skills gap? To quote an old comic strip character: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” There is a skills gap because we talk about it, but we don’t act on it. What opportunities are we opening for potential engineering and manufacturing students? One thing we can do, especially you manufacturers, is to partner with local community colleges with STEM curricula. Tri-County Tech in South Carolina presented the program they have created with local industry. Industry gets a pipeline of trained staff. Tri-County Tech is nimble and responsive to the training needs of their local industry.

My concluding observation: I got really hung up in the first two STEM posts with 4-year degrees. Probably because I have one. (Well, actually, it was a five year co-op BSEE program that took me six years.) Half the technical jobs out there can be filled by someone with a two-year degree. Four-year degree programs tend to have fairly rigid curricula; two-year programs at community colleges can be more dynamic in responding to local needs. Tri-County provided an example of changing a course midway through to cope with needs of local industry.

Here is your challenge: find a local community college with fields of study that are relevant to you. You have to find them; they don’t know you. Find them and see how you can help. There is a cost in time and possibly donated equipment, but there are rewards, too – helping get trained staff for your company.

–Carl Henning

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