Creating the next generation of engineers and scientists is critical to any country’s economy, which demands more skilled workers and a wider range of available talent. It is estimated that over the next decade nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled as per the Skills Gap report by Deloitte in association with the Manufacturing Institute. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled. As the foundation of economic success, manufacturing must work to close this gap.
One of the ways is to engage in STEM initiatives early to build the talent pipeline. Another way is to get more women in manufacturing who are otherwise underrepresented. As most of today’s manufacturing jobs require STEM competencies, it’s a good idea to combine both these ways and start getting more women in STEM as early as possible.
Women role models
Starting in their youth, girls need role models and mentors to create interest in STEM fields. Introducing these young women to such leaders and helping them network can have a dramatic influence in their choices to take up STEM education and related jobs in their career.
Teachers equipped with the learning tools of today
To prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists, teachers should be given access to the latest technology in learning tools. They can use videos and presentations on devices like smartphones, tablets, and projectors to give live examples from STEM during classroom sessions. In addition, eLearning courses can facilitate learning at the learner's own pace.
It’s important for teachers to show girls that STEM fields rely on trial and error, and that they’ll rarely find a solution on the first attempt solving a problem with an engineering project. In fact, the engineering design process is all about testing a concept and readjusting parameters when it fails. They will learn better by doing and that builds their technological curiosity—an important characteristic for STEM students.
Girls should be introduced to how work is done and products are made in a manufacturing plant as early as their K12 education. This will create a strong interest leading them to select STEM subjects during higher education and ultimately a career in STEM fields.
The report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute also found that women in manufacturing today are pleased with the quality of their jobs and that they find their careers interesting and rewarding. This needs to be shared with girls in their early education years by schools and colleges. However, colleges cannot work alone to get more women in STEM education. Manufacturing companies and educational institutes must work together to get more women into STEM. This is one of the many steps necessary to help bridge the skills gap.