One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers is finding employees. Sometimes it’s a matter of awareness of opportunities within the careers that manufacturing offers. Awareness involves both connecting to students and inviting them to take part in companies. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education is rewarding, students need employers and professionals to show them how rewarding it can be.
In Massachusetts, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito met with leaders from local government, education and industry to recruit more of those employers to host interns in the STEM.
“Today’s discussion is really about talent,” said David Cruise, president of the Hampden County Regional Employment Board. “Talent is the differentiator.”
Polito said that Massachusetts is an innovative state, but that could disappear if the gap in employment continues. “We need to make sure that our educational assets are able to keep up with the change in our economy,” Polito said, “We have 100,000 manufacturing jobs to fill over the next 10 years. Where are these people going to come from?”
Currently, the state has just 20 percent of its high school studentsin vocational and technical programs. John C. Becker, president of Creative Material Technologies in Palmer, has hosted around a dozen high school and college interns since 2011. Through his intern program, B and C students have developed into experts. After graduating, many of those interns took jobs with the company.
“The thing they bring is energy and ideas,” Becker said. “The best thing is when they get it. They might be studying physics. With us they can see how physics relates to the project they are working on.”
Often, the wide variety of vocational paths open to students are not apparent to urban kids; State Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, echoed the sentiment.
“We have kids that walk past these buildings every day and have no idea what goes on inside,” Vega said.
Since 2014, over 250 STEM companies from every region of the state have hosted about 1,000 high school students each year since 2014. In total, more than 10,000 students worked with commonwealth businesses of all types last year.
In addition to internships, STEM mentors are important to the success of students. By sharing personal experiences and creating “mentoring moments,” mentors can turn everyday interactions into meaningful opportunities to connect and engage with others. This can include gathering for lunch, grabbing coffee together, or a simple moment of connection. These little moments can make the biggest impact. A mentoring moment doesn’t require a big time commitment, instead it’s the impact that matters.
According to BP America Senior Vice President Cindy Yeilding, small moments of connecting can have just as big of an impact as a major, formal mentoring program.
“It’s easy to slip these moments into your daily life,” Yeilding said. “None of this is in my job description, but these experiences constitute some of the most important parts of my day.”
STEM talent acquisition and cultivation needs to be started at an early age. Students are ready for the challenge, but teachers lack the resources and time to execute. That’s where the companies and mentors come in. By opening doors and taking time to connect with students, companies and professionals are unveiling the great opportunities that exist within manufacturing.