Local Manufacturer Engages Younger Generation to Fill Industry’s Skills Gap

David Bjorkgren
Image via MachineDesign.com.

Over the next decade, approximately 2 million of 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills gap, writes Al Frattarola, the director of global engineering and technology at Southco in Glen Mills, for MachineDesign.com.

Southco is addressing the STEM crisis by reaching out to local communities to explain the new technologies and engage the younger generation.

It has a network of 20 associates that participate in STEM events, on-site at its facilities in Concordville and Honeoye Falls, N.Y., and at local schools and universities.

These events and tours can ultimate translate into jobs at Southco for students exposed early to different fields of engineering by Southco engineers who have themselves come to the company through their own STEM programs.

  • Each year, Southco partners with local manufacturing alliances and universities to give students the opportunity to job shadow different engineering roles.
  • It sponsors senior design or capstone projects and local robotics teams to give students a passion for STEM.
  • Overseas, Southco has an apprenticeship program in the U.K. that allows students to attend school and work at Southco. A student training program has also been launched in China.
  • On average, Southco gives between $40,000 to $50,000 each year to local STEM associations and provides five to six scholarships to a local U.S. university.

Participation in career fairs and support from human resources and marketing teams allows branded signage and giveaway items that appeal to the younger generation’s desire to actively participate in the business.

Southco also takes a proactive approach with existing workforces by creating development goals for mentoring associates who are bringing up the next generation of associates.

Reaching out to engineering societies and clubs can engage students and grow diversity in your company, Frattarola writes. The goal is to ultimately become a learning organization, creating lasting mentoring relationships.

Companies can inspire students by getting involved in maker spaces and local clubs where they can build and create in a STEM environment. Participation with STEM-focused schools is also a good option.

You can start small to change the national trend and reverse the STEM crisis. Southco started with career days and hosting in-house tours. That led to sponsoring STEM-type groups and expanding to scholarship offerings.

It only takes commitment from your team, Frattarola writes.  If everyone contributes, you can tie it to development goals, exposing your brand to future talent and customers.

Read more about how Southco is encouraging the development of STEM skills at MachineDesign.com here.

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