Science, technology, engineering and math are critical keystones for the longevity of many industries, including manufacturing. Recognizing the skills gap rapidly approaching as fewer students decide to focus on STEM-related subjects, a variety of non-profit and educational organizations are stepping up to the plate to begin rectifying the situation one student at a time.

These resources are diverse. Children can find introduction and skill building for STEM at the local library with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and Girls Who Code, just to name a few. While many of these examples will generate dividends in the future, the manufacturing industry is one of several industries already facing a skills gap as a lack of employees possess STEM-related skills.

With 2.4 million STEM jobs projected to go unfilled, industries are looking for ways to mend the gap with more immediacy. In the manufacturing industry this includes hosting industry-wide events such as National Manufacturing Day in the U.S. and Canada. The purpose of such events is to introduce a new generation to manufacturing and its employment possibilities. This is important because people of all ages still see manufacturing as a “dirty” job. What many do not see are the growing range of possibilities within the industry that pair technology and STEM skills.

A knowledge of STEM goes beyond science, technology, engineering and math to include problem solving, critical thinking and creative solutions. It’s an approach that allows for analytical expression through hands-on and digital learning, promoting out-of-the-box thinking at work and beyond.

In addition to events such as Manufacturing Day which features open houses and job fairs, manufacturers are also teaming with community colleges and vocational schools to cultivate a new generation of manufacturing workers who possess the skills the industry needs to remain relevant.

Evidence of the need for STEM skills within manufacturing is visible in the increasing use of robotics and cobots, collaborative robots that interact with humans in a shared space. In this increasingly technological world, skills such as programming, manipulation of robotic processes and design are in-demand skills that a growing number of junior high and high school students are already learning. Another bonus is that many of these manufacturing jobs only require a 2-year degree, creating a high return on investment. A growing number of manufacturers are also offering on-the-job training to bring the skills of current employees up to date.

STEM Stats

  • STEM jobs are projected to grow 13%
  • Average median hourly wage for a STEM job is $38.85
  • Out of 100 STEM occupations, 93% had wages above the national average
  • The U.S. placed 38th out of 71 countries in math, 24th in science
  • Only 36% of high school grads are ready to take a college-level science course
  • 74% of middle school girls express an interest in engineering, science and math

The need for solid STEM skills is not going away and it’s up to those in the manufacturing industry to continue to make these skills a priority in order to attract the next generation of manufacturing employees.