Finding the New Workers

Bart Aslin The SME Education Foundation believes that career development begins at an early age. There are a myriad of factors that influence children as they grow into adulthood, but education is universally recognized to be a major factor that can open doors to future success in the workforce. With nearly 75 million baby boomers set for retirement, now, more than ever, technically skilled workers are in high demand. 

SME-EF is working hard to address these critical needs through its Web sites, youth programs, and scholarships. Since its inception in 1979, SMEEF has awarded more than $25 million to colleges, universities, K-12 school districts, students, and educators throughout North America. The grants are made as part of a comprehensive plan to inspire, support, and prepare students for rewarding careers in manufacturing. 

In 2006, the Foundation joined with Project Lead The Way to launch Gateway Academy, a one-week hands-on learning experience that is designed to introduce middle school students to the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Following the hands-on experience, students are then placed into the PLTW coursework at the middle school and high school level. In 2008, 179 camps in 26 states introduced over 4400 students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). According to a 2005 Skills Gap Report, more than 80% of US manufacturers report an overall shortage of qualified employees. This can be changed by educating young people in STEM, providing them with information about the manufacturing world, and allowing them to experience beneficial opportunities, such as these summer camps. 

And the SME Education Foundation is doing its part to make manufacturing 'cool.' In addition to camps and scholarships, SMEEF hosts "Manufacturing is Cool", an interactive Web site that's goal is to inspire preteens and teens to pursue careers in engineering and manufacturing. The site encourages children to be original thinkers, gives them an inside look at how everyday objects are designed and produced by engineers, and provides information about camps, scholarships, and engineering- related programs at universities and institutions located around the country.    
The SME Education Foundation's commitment to workforce development has attracted the collaboration of educational institutions, businesses, and other like-minded organizations that are dedicated to providing educational opportunities for all Americans. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 60% of employers are forced to reject half of all applicants because they lack one or more basic skill. SME-EF is working hard to change this by inspiring, supporting, and preparing today's youth for future careers in a high- tech manufacturing world.   
Author Affiliation: Bart A. Aslin, Foundation Director, SME Education Foundation