In my last blog, I wrote about adding another "M" to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and training.
The second "M" is for manufacturing.
The need to manufacture -- build things -- is vital to our economy. It is seen in our balance of trade, where "aerospace vehicles and equipment" are just about the only area we have a positive balance.
Aerospace manufactured products are highly dependent on STEM education and skills. Aerospace jobs of all types are among the best-paid (software engineers in the aerospace industry command more than $44 an hour). And just about every study that has been done about aerospace employment in the next 20 years indicates the U.S. will have a shortage of qualified aerospace workers.
Boeing, for example, estimates that by 2028 the need for maintenance technicians alone will grow from over 180,000 to more than 300,000; with 137,000 needed in North America. As the aircraft, engines and components add new technologies and materials, the need for STEM skills will grow in design, manufacturing and maintenance.
In order to excite the youth of America about manufacturing in the modern age, we need to raise the awareness of the youth.
Future Manufacturers of America?
There are many programs across the country that attempt to address this. These programs include after-school opportunities; vocational and technical schools; university programs that offer manufacturing course work and degrees; professional organizations that offer awareness programs and scholarships; as well as local programs offered by not-for-profit organizations.
And even though many of these programs are quite good, unfortunately, they are often not coordinated.
In my view, the success of organizations like the Future Farmers of America, the 4-H and Junior Achievement needs to be replicated in manufacturing. So, once again, we are talking about leadership.
More specifically, we are talking about the need to build a national program that is focused on the breadth of modern-day manufacturing -- from engineering to design and operations on the factory floor -- to increase the awareness of American youth of the good jobs that are available to produce the next generation of products that the United States and the world will demand.
Maybe it's time to think about a "Future Manufacturers of America" organization? Let me know what you think.
Brig. Gen. Robert E. Mansfield Jr., USAF (Ret.), is an aerospace executive in residence in the Department of Business Administration, Center for Aviation and Aerospace Leadership at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide. He has served as director of supply for the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon and has had numerous assignments both at home and abroad leading major Air Force logistics and management operations.