Many industries are on the precipice of huge skill gaps—will they evolve to welcome STEM in time?

stem manu-boss magazineUnless you live under a rock, you’ve heard mention of the skills gap in many industries. From IT departments and engineering to logistics, manufacturing, and construction, industry experts are getting older, retiring, and leaving a vacuum. But it’s not their fault.

With the exception of IT, industries like manufacturing, construction, and trucking can be seen as unfavorable areas for careers—heavy or “dirty” industries, if you will. But it’s 2018, and technology is driving these markets to a new level of innovation.

“The clash between old and new is manifesting profound differences between institutions of higher education and the students they enroll. Today’s students are digital natives,” said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and president emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University. “They are growing up in a world of computers, Internet, cell phones, MP3 players, and social networking.”

As of spring 2017, there were 350,000 manufacturing jobs available. DHL and the U.S. Bureau of Statistics estimates that logistics will grow over 25 percent between 2010 and 2020. Deloitte and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) believe that modern manufacturing will have over 3.5 million vacancies. Currently, about 30 percent of supply chain professionals are near retirement age.

The skills gap is already an issue, and it’s only going to grow by leaps and bounds in manufacturing and supply chain, unless the industry can get ahead of it.

There are many steps and strategies leaders will need to implement to get the right people in the right jobs. For manufacturing, supply chain, and many other industries, STEM education is the answer.

STEM: Not Just Computer Science

As you might already know, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But there’s a grave misconception that a STEM education only really benefits those looking for a computer science-focused career. That’s certainly not a bad career to have, but STEM careers go far beyond that.

“Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is not only a prelude to engineering, but also to innovation manufacturing in the 21st century,” said Saul K. Fenster, PhD, president emeritus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), University Heights, Newark, N.J., and president of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Education Foundation. “STEM education is also crucial to fields in all areas of society including the financial, medical, and biology sectors.

“Engineering is a problem-solving profession, and when young people realize it is creative and fun, they are less apprehensive about its more challenging curriculum, and learning is made significantly easier.”

Those who get an education in a STEM-related field are reshaping our infrastructure, developing cures and diseases, and so much more. For just the field of mathematics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the labor market for this subset will increase 23 percent by 2022.

Even as someone who studied English Literature in college, I understand now how hard it can be to pass up the benefits you can reap when you get a STEM education.

People in STEM fields are more likely to apply for, receive, and commercialize patents. Although some fields of study in STEM education are specialized, many of the degrees can apply to a wide range of careers and jobs.

STEM employees earn more—by almost 30 percent—in part because the vast majority of them hold college degrees. Employment in STEM occupations is growing faster than non-STEM positions as well.

Manufacturing & Supply Chain in the U.S.

Manufacturing is an incredibly important industry to the U.S. Although there has been a trend over the past few decades that took manufacturing out of the country, it continues to be a mainstay of our economy.

The manufacturing sector of the U.S. alone is big enough to be the ninth-largest economy in the world—a $2.1 trillion value. From an innovation standpoint, manufacturers in the U.S. perform more than 75 percent of private-sector research and development for the country. This means manufacturing drives innovation more than any other industry.

“From an innovation standpoint, manufacturers in the U.S. perform more than 75 percent of private-sector research and development for the country. This means manufacturing drives innovation more than any other industry.”

We could continue to throw these stats at you, but simply put, manufacturing is a key market in the U.S. and a huge asset to the country’s GDP and its people.

The logistics market in the U.S. is almost as impressive. In 2014 it was valued at $1.45 trillion, 8.3 percent of the GDP. Almost every type of supply chain delivery—from domestic air freight and trucking to rail and ocean shipping—has increased exponentially, with intermodal shipping increasing the most.

STEM-related Jobs in Manufacturing
stem manu-boss magazine

  1. Fabricator
    Median Salary: $30,080Read blueprints and plans to manufacture the parts that comprise products, ensure quality control through testing the performance and safety of all parts of a product.
  2. Machinist
    Median Salary: $42,110
    Use manual operations, in addition to CAD and CAM programs to create metal tools and parts that are used to manufacture products.
  3. Field Service Engineer
    Median Salary: $64,487
    Travel to different job sites to perform installation, maintenance, and testing on electrical systems; the face of his or her company.
  4. Senior Plant Process Engineer
    Median Salary: $81,791
    Monitor manufacturing costs, examine employee efficiency and product quality; promote a safe working environment for colleagues, which is integral to quality output.
  5. Materials Engineer
    Median Salary: $94,690
    Choose materials through considering quality-control guidelines established by your company and the expectations of consumers who demand the finished product.

STEM-related Jobs in Logistics
stem manu-boss magazine

  1. Warehouse Associate
    Median Salary: $28,000
    Packing and unpacking merchandise; fill customer’s orders and make sure orders get out to the right place on time.
  2. Logistics Clerk
    Median Salary: $39,000
    Analyzes and coordinates logistical functions of a firm, ensures inventory levels are correct, assists in the life cycle of a product.
  3. Demand Planning Analyst
    Median Salary: $54,000
    Understand how much of a product is needed and how much to keep in stock; develop more efficient ways to do so.
  4. Merchandise Buyer
    Median Salary: $80,000
    Research new trends or advances in products and make buying decisions.
  5. Procurement Director
    Median Salary: $115,000
    Find new equipment, products, or services from suppliers; in charge of managing those suppliers.

A Match Made on the Facility Floor

The future of U.S. manufacturing and supply chain is dependent on innovation—both as a way to attract young talent and lessen the skills gap, and as a way to keep the country and this industry ahead of the rest of the world.

Mars, Incorporated is a perfect example of a company that you may not expect to have a large hiring focus on STEM. The company, a global manufacturer of confectionery and food products for both people and pets, has made it a central tenet of the company to hire STEM educated individuals.

Growing relationships with over 20 technical schools have created opportunities for partnerships with curriculum development, apprenticeships, and recruitment and development of top-tier manufacturing talent. The company’s goal to hire hundreds of new manufacturing associates solidifies its pursuit of a STEM-heavy workforce.

Leaders of forward thinking companies—like Tracey Massey, President of Mars Wrigley Confectionery—have and will continue to create the space for STEM educated individuals in their workforce, knowing the result will be better products and better consumer experiences.