Many years ago, I met one of the most amazing people-- his name is Ray Almgren, and his job is to take the wildest ideas of Dr. James Truchard, CEO of National Instruments, turn them into marketable ideas and share them with the world. His title is VP Marketing.
But Almgren's real job is to be one of the most important spark plugs in the STEM movement. He was one of the people who negotiated National Instruments' important contribution to the LEGO Mindstorm game (the programming software is LabVIEW with a child-friendly GUI) and National Instruments' even more amazing contribution to FIRST robotics a couple of years ago.
Most people who are now waking up to the importance of STEM in revitalizing manufacturing in North America have no idea who Ray is, or what an enormous contribution he has made. Somehow, for a marketing guy, he is remarkably self-effacing.
He's written an opinion piece for InTech magazine which lays it plainly on the line about STEM.
"The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that job opportunities in STEM fields are expected to grow significantly over the next five years, growing twice as fast as non-STEM industries," Almgren writes. "In spite of this growing need, today’s students are losing interest in these disciplines and pursuing other career choices. Furthermore, university students who do obtain engineering degrees are experiencing a major disconnect between the concepts they have learned in their studies and the practical applications to real-world problems they face in the workforce. So how do we make a lasting impression on young students and keep them engaged throughout the education continuum?"
He goes on to explain that there are simple, cost effective solutions to getting students engaged and keeping them so, such that they want careers in manufacturing. Adopting hands-on learning experiences and providing dedicated role models are two of the most important.
Take the time to read this excellent article, and while you're doing that, think about how you're going to help us create the STEM-educated job holders that will carry North American manufacturing into the second half of the 21st Century. Hoping someone will do it just doesn't cut it. If you don't help, who will?