A Johnny Magdaleno and Lee Wellington report – in their piece “STEM education Needs More Shop Floors” – of a multi-million job deficit in manufacturing areas in this country in the decade to come and of skills gap that continues to drive this deficit.
They note that lawmakers are endeavoring to catch up to the problem, see the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015 in which 25 (choice) schools would receive $5,000,000 each to renovate and reinvigorate their manufacturing and engineering programs. 1
This being followed up by a segment of the 2017 Department of Defense(?) budget provided $10,000,000 to fund a manufacturing engineering education grant program, we can find ourselves convinced that even those from the highest echelons of our government see that our current engineering programs fail to provide practical hands on work experience necessary for a whole segment of engineering – manufacturing – that our folk might go into, might want to go into.
They reference a Northern Michigan University – hey, that’s right up there, Hello, up there, NMU, cool idea! – program to pair students with professional mentors to work for real-life clients. They worked on an actual product for which they needed to not only design a prototype and manufacture 50 copies of said prototype for said client, but also work with others (industrial designers, graphic designers, business majors) to develop a launch plan for how they would actually make this work in the actual market they are actually going into in a few short years. (Some even sell the products they create! Egads, making money during your time in University!?)
A Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin Senator) is reported as saying
By helping schools focus their engineering programs on advanced manufacturing skills, we can equip our next generation of engineers with the skills they need to thrive in the twenty-first century.
Amen to all that. 2
- Sounds like it would be a good idea to invest in our university infrastructure to ensure that with the rapid influx of new students (and new types of students) through our doors, we must adapt to their needs and the needs of the market. We’ve got to align all our pipes, and nothing gets you get plumbing like good money. Well, except, though introduced to the House and the Senate, it never made it out of either. It languished and died the quiet death of most great governmental ideas.
- Except to that first footnote.