We read this story every few months but most of these "manufacturers" aren't telling the whole truth.Bonnie:
They aren't talking about how they gutted their own training programs in the 80's and 90's, because someone @ the WSJ/Harvard Business School told them to get lean, downsize, rightsize, or out source.
They aren't talking about how automation has really decimated their bread and butter parts and they have to move up to small runs of specialized parts @ high margins to make the money they're used to making.
They aren't talking about how most of their want ads require years of experience and often times a degree.
They aren't talking about how boring it is to work on a lathe for 8 hour stretches.
The reality is that they want experienced people, but they do not want to spend the money to train and retain their employees.
At least in Houston, there are more than enough people that can read blue prints, calculate sin/cos/tang/hyp if necessary. That area of Houston they're talking about is about 10 miles away from NASA and the aerospace/defense contractor hub in Clear Lake City.
We shouldn't have any sympathy for short sighted companies. Nor should we think that the US is in some kind of STEM bind.
There are plenty of out of work born in America engineers now, and plenty of would-be-engineers creamed by grade curves and weed out courses. If you head over to any of the comp sci/it/science/engineering fora, you'll see just how vast and deep the pool is.
Actually, in CS, enrollments have plummeted in the last few years, to the extent that CS departments are being closed. However, I agree with you on the role of companies. The reason students chose not to major in CS is that they saw their parents laid off from their tech jobs, forced to train their replacements in India (and I know several people personally that had to do that, including my husband). Companies refuse to invest in training or education for their technical employees, instead figuring they can be replaced once their 10 year technical lifespan has expired. Kids saw this happen, and decided that they would rather major in finance, where they can actually be paid well.Steve H:
I agree with patentlawyer. I've seen this argument before, and once again, it's not clearly defined. I deal with many companies that bring in computer-aided design and CNC technology. There is more demand than supply. Companies don't like to train because they see these people move on to better paying jobs. Why pay to train someone in SolidWorks who will immediately leave? Just demand that education provide them ready to go. But what, exactly, are these skills? It's not trigonometry.
"Manufacturers say the U.S. education system doesn't produce enough students strong in math, science and engineering."
People with science, math, or engineering degrees won't fill these positions, and companies can train bright high school graduates to meet this demand.
Let's say that a company buys a CNC cutting machine and it comes with a program that nests geometry and generates the G-code to drive the machine. Is this taught in school? Also, where does this geometry come from, a 2D CAD drawing program, a 3D solid modeling program, or a surface modeling program like Rhino? Do they teach these programs in school? You don't learn this in high school geometry. Do schools teach the issues of geometry transfer that cost companies so much time and money?
Look at the skills that companies have in their job ads. Do they say "trigonometry"? Do they ask for people who have critical thinking skills? No. They want specialized skills that are rarely taught in schools. That's why our local vocational school (which offers college degrees) is so popular. They teach these applications and skills. Companies should ask for more vocational schools.
How many job ads say that they are looking for those who had good grades in trig and that they will train. No, you see ads with very specific software or machine skills required, loaded with all sorts of product names (like MasterCAM) and acronyms. Companies might want critical thinking skills, but what they have in the ads are specific product skills. That's why older workers are vulnerable. Companies don't care about general educational background. They care about the latest products and skills. It doesn't matter how experienced you are if that experience is with DEC's VMS. If you don't manage your career carefully, you will end up on a legacy path where the company will not pay for training. One company where my wife worked made a comment about how people over 40 are tired, overpaid, and don't know the latest technology.