As one of the world’s first industrialized nations, America has had a mature industrial base for over a century. The country that tamed the west, built the railroads, cracked the nuclear code, and landed the first man on the moon only accomplished these feats through tremendous engineering talent. So where did all of the STEM professionals go?
Over the past ten years candidates in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) have been siphoned away from the chemical, process, mechanical, and industrial fields into IT and software engineering. As a result, industrial companies face a massive challenge in finding the next generation of people who have the technical skills to satisfy the minimum requirements of the job.
Engineering a Solution to the STEM Skills Gap
It’s gotten to a point where some organizations have stepped in to educate workers on the job. German glass manufacturer SCHOTT, for instance, offers one of the few apprenticeship programs at its plants in Duryea and Lebanon, Pa. “We set up an apprenticeship program because of a need for new talent as we’ve invested in capital equipment for glass forming,” said Lauren Lake, HR Director at SCHOTT North America of Lebanon, Pa.
“We started our program in order to take a more active role in training the next generation of workers. Since these new machines rely heavily on highly technical expertise for their operation, the company needed specially trained talent to manage their maintenance, and the best way to do this was to create a program to train promising talent ourselves.”
The changing dynamics of today’s market are requiring organizations to innovate new solutions to develop, attract, and retain the quality talent. With a new awakening of American manufacturing, many old dogs are reluctant to learn the new tricks, but in order to cultivate the next generation of engineers organizations must be willing to step outside their comfort zone.
3 Ways to Fill STEm JOBs
With that being said, a full apprenticeship program might not be necessary or feasible. While some mature industries might lack the sex appeal of Silicon Valley, these old dogs can freshen up their home to appeal to a new talent pool.
Scout Tier Two Engineering Schools
You don’t have to join the crowds clamoring for first dibs on the engineering talent graduating from MIT, Stanford, or Michigan. A number of second-tier universities, from Lehigh to Widener to the University of Delaware, develop exceptional young engineers who are just as technically proficient but aren’t pursued as relentlessly as graduates of top schools.
Post Projects; Not Job Opportunities
Ph.D.-caliber engineers are attracted to signature, iconic projects that will stand up over time. This is why NASA is the most attractive employer in the eyes of engineering students. But even earth-bound employers can raise their stature by emphasizing larger opportunities inherent in major projects in order to draw the talent that can help meet America’s industrial challenges now on the horizon.
Broaden Your Reach
Find a workforce management firm with long tentacles into industries that not only delivers technical talent exactly when it’s needed, but keeps engineers engaged through project work. At Yoh, many of our contingent engineers have worked with us for 20 years or more. That kind of longevity and experience is tough to find, especially on a contingent basis. And yet short-term projects comprise many engineering assignments in mature industries, as well as feed the minds of talent through a diverse set of ever-shifting challenges.
The resurgence of the U.S. industrial economy means mature industries must adjust their approach to talent. With mechanical, process, and other engineers in short supply, a more proactive approach to building talent pools and an experienced contingent labor partner will help employers build the future of American industry.