The Gift of STEAM Now Can Help Defeat the Skills Gap Later

Dec. 5, 2018
In World War II, we grew victory gardens. Now the enemy is different, and we need to nurture the skills to keep manufacturing fighting fit.

Deloitte updated its skills gap warning this year, predicting that the U.S. will have a shortfall of 2.4 million manufacturing by 2028, jeopardizing $2.5 trillion worth of GDP.

That's a serious national security problem for the country, one that requires all of us to do our part in this war for economic stability.

It's what we do.

In the 1940s about 20 million American families grew Victory Gardens to produce 16 billion lb. of food. I can't even get one vine of tomatoes to mature before the varmints get at them, but the country doesn’t need green thumbs; they need brains ripe with scientific acumen and bursting with curiosity. That's easy enough to cultivate. Just get your kid, grandkid, niece, nephew or whoever a gift that matters this Christmas (even if you personally don't celebrate it). That gift, as our recent editorial investigations have led us to believe, should provide some educational value in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and/or Mathematics (STEAM).

The rest of the world has been advocating STEAM to enable future manufacturing workers for quite some time, with China beginning a 3D-printing education initiative in 2015.

This gallery should get you started with some ideas on what those can be, but there's no guarantee it will work. They may think a 3D printer is too complicated and it will lay in storage next to the elliptical machine you hang your old coats on.

And even if they love it, they may love another career more. That's all OK. All you can do is plant the seeds and hope for the best. And maybe nurture that growth a bit by showing them how to use the gadget and how it applies to certain fields or things they can relate to would help as well.

The best case is you just helped fill the skills gap at some indiscriminate point in the future and put a kid you don’t hate on a solid career path. The median salary for engineers in 2016 was $91,010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And the worst case is these kids have another toy they don't play with. That's well worth the risk considering the stakes.

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor, Fleet Maintenance

John Hitch, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, is the editor of Fleet Maintenance, a B2B magazine that addresses the service needs for all commercial vehicle makes and models (Classes 1-8), ranging from shop management strategies to the latest tools to enhance uptime.

He previously wrote about equipment and fleet operations and management for FleetOwner, and prior to that, manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician aboard a nuclear-powered submarine where he served honorably aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).


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