STEM Professionals: US Needs Additional Manufacturing Engineers

Manufacturing is undergoing another revolution. The first was powered by steam water and coal. The second: powered by electricity.

Today, we are in the midst of a technological revolution that is changing the proficiency required for both skilled and unskilled labour to be successful.

Economic projections point to a need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the United States will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The manufacturing sector, in particular, has the potential to support 5 million jobs in addition to the 12 million workers already employed. This includes careers that require both four-year degrees as well as post-high school certification programs offered by two-year community colleges and vocational schools, according to SMEEF.

The lack of interest or knowledge of opportunities in STEM, combined with the onset of Baby Boomer retirement, could accelerate the widening gap in the manufacturing workforce. Because of this, organizations across the country are teaming up to provide outreach to students across the country.

STEM in the EHS Field

The skills gap not only is present in the traditional manufacturing setting but also extends to occupational health and safety careers as well.

Sue Marchese, director of marketing and communications for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) stated that,”while students may show an interest in STEM education in engineering, biology, or toxicology, many of them are not aware of careers in areas such as industrial hygiene”.

The organization’s membership is aware that the industrial hygiene profession needs to be perpetuated, she says. So, AIHA has begun to work with its local chapters to bring educational materials and seminars to local school districts.

Much of the effort to date has been grassroots, with association members volunteering to present to classrooms full of STEM students, using multimedia toolkits, slideshow presentations, videos, dossiers and comic books.

So far, small achievements along the way already have shaped students and provided public outreach about careers in industrial hygiene, Marchese says.

Logan Smith, a high school senior, from Bloomington, Illinois. provided the following feedback after an AIHA-sponsored education session:

“Industrial hygiene is an important and often overlooked part of the workplace. An industrial hygienist’s job is to minimize or eliminate hazards in a work environment.

They must partner with workers to detect and correct health issues in the workplace….” he wrote. “This video has influenced me to consider industrial hygiene as a possible career choice in my life. In my own workplace, I often point out safety issues that are overlooked or need attention. I personally believe there are many things in life and the workplace that are hazardous and can be avoided, but often are not.”