Nearly a year ago, I wrote and recorded a KQED Radio Perspectives program
segment entitled “What Manufacturing Needs”. In it, I tried to quickly address the problem of having a strong industry with solid indications of future growth, while projections show we will be short two million manufacturing workers in the next 10 years.
I asked the question: Why is U.S. production so short of these skilled workers?
While there are many answers, one area of focus is the messaging around a career in manufacturing. There are right messages and wrong messages that impact whether students, parents and teachers consider manufacturing a viable career choice. One of the “right messages” I highlighted was having manufacturers connect with communities through classroom presentations and factory tours, maker fairs, and by encouraging all kids to explore hands-on STEM curricula.
Bishop-Wisecarver has participated in all of these ways and it makes a difference - not an overnight change, but a long-term impact. One of these activities is supporting the FIRST Robotics Competition for more than ten years now and the benefits of this program can’t be overstated. This year’s 2018 competition has more than 3600 high school teams from around the world, including more than 91,000 students, learning STEM and digital learning skills, as well as overall business and communication tools.
In addition to participating as a Diamond Level sponsor at the national level, Bishop-Wisecarver also sponsors local teams. Read a quote from one of the Pittsburg High School robotics mentors
to better understand how these programs make a difference for students, schools and industries.
We also support groups like the Manufacturing Institute and their STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Awards
that recognize women in manufacturing who exemplify leadership within their companies. STEP Ahead winners make a pledge to promote the importance of women in manufacturing and they are realizing significant progress. I was honored to receive a STEP Ahead award in 2013, the inaugural year of the program, and over the past five years, STEP Ahead Award winners have impacted more than 300,000 individuals — from peers in the industry to school-age children. STEP Ahead has become a highly successful grassroots movement that is overcoming the skills gap and attracting, retaining and advancing women employees in the manufacturing industry.
While we all realize there is no single answer to the skilled workers need in U.S. manufacturing, I’m proud that Bishop-Wisecarver is taking action to provide real solutions today. We are sending the right messages now to positively impact students and future employees in the manufacturing industry. Someday, I hope the question will no longer be around the shortage of skilled workers, but instead focus on “How did manufacturing become the most technologically advanced, diverse, hottest job market in the U.S.?”