Leaders from Congress and the private sector convened Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol to discuss a way ahead for producing the manufacturing engineers needed to sustain the economy of the future.
Industry leaders emphasized the importance of investing in higher education programs that provide skills that are necessary and important to the current landscape, and that can prepare the next generation of workers.
- There’s no one type of institution that will be best to help fill the voids, and leaders say there must be a full-on collaborative effort between various types of institutions in higher ed and industry.
As industry leaders look at the nation's changing demographics and realize the current population of manufacturing engineers is quickly approaching retirement age, they are scrambling to establish partnerships with four-year institutions as well as community colleges and certificate programs to help keep the manufacturing sector alive.
Executives said succession and transition planning are among the biggest challenges they face today. Dr. William Bonvillian, director of MIT’s DC office, said a failure to see manufacturing as part of the innovation system of the 21st century led to a void in talent coming through the pipeline. Industry leaders are looking to higher ed to help create a pipeline of talent that will be able to step into these roles and fill the voids.
This conversation extends far beyond just manufacturing: A number of industries and government agencies have begun to invest in higher education to help bridge the skills gap and produce 21st century workers. Bonvillian said it is critical to encourage hands-on, experiential learning, including nurturing students who want to build start-ups.
“Maybe universities don’t have to think about their students as ending with the classroom,” he said, suggesting “we substitute space for capital” to help support start-ups and drive innovation in the country.