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Posts Tagged ‘science’

The World’s Fastest Car – To Inspire Engineers

Posted by Bert Maes on February 8, 2011

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Construction work formally begins this week on what is expected to be the world’s fastest car. Called Bloodhound, the vehicle has been designed to reach 1,000mph (1,600km/h).

Even cooler is this: the project has been conceived to inspire school children around the world to take up science and engineering.


‘to inspire engineers’

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The Ideal Teacher and the Real Manufacturing Opportunities

Posted by Bert Maes on February 4, 2011

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Just yesterday I have been in France at what is called the WorldSkills France competition finals (Olympiades des Métiers), a big feast honoring young skilled craftsmen in industrial trades, including the trade of advanced manufacturing machining.

The hundreds of young students I have seen competing there were working so hard, so motivated, so energized and they were so proud of what they were creating. We actually made a video on the event that I will post later on when editing is done.

I was especially honored to also meet a machining teacher with 20 years of turning and milling practice and 24 years of teaching experience. For me he seems to be the ideal CNC teacher:

  • He doesn’t have a binder under his arm: he detests the teachers that focus all resources into book theory and do not offer a real hands-on degree.
  • He takes the time and has the kindness and patience to teach the practical basics in blueprint reading, engineering, design, metallurgy, materials, speeds and feeds, cutting tools, programming, math, safety, and communication. His students receive the breadth training that is required to sculpt a well-rounded, versatile machining specialist… far more than a button pusher, parts changer or a trained monkey at a CNC machine.
  • He battles constantly to always have access to the latest machining equipment. The world is changing at a dramatic pace and today’s young people are used to constant change and challenges. In order to attract them, the machining school department must continually develop to offer the tools and practices that show a future.
  • He lets students develop their own metal artwork for their final exams. He requires his students to be creative and to make anything they want to. Together they develop great projects. They never experience boredom.
  • He takes them outside the school to see metal pieces perform in the real world: planes, cars, medical devices, musical instruments, jewelery, all kinds of sports, and so on. That builds self-confidence and passion.

This guy makes schooling and the trade very interesting. Then, there is no end to the students’ engagement. He plants seeds for cultivating those young people to advance in the machining trade. His students even cried when he announced to leave his previous school. This teacher makes advanced machining manufacturing a fascinating career choice. All of his students were hired quickly.

This story is only successful because of the hard work of this teacher, school management, parents, and students. I hear many people say that young people do not want to work hard in school anymore: they take the route of least resistance; they want to make money with limited effort in no time. In this age obtaining information, communication, merchandise, food and practically anything is effortless at the touch of a button. So it should be the same for money, they think.

True, probably money can be made much faster by not pursuing a manufacturing career. But… who are the heroes of our economy? The talented, rough and intelligent individuals that start a manufacturing business in their garage and turn out amazing products. Computerized equipment, CNC machines, CAD/CAM, lean processes and the internet have greatly enhanced manufacturing job satisfaction, while reaching an audience they never could have 10 or 15 years ago.

An inspiring example is the story of Mike who started his own manufacturing company at the age of 15.

The opportunities to work, make money and grow in the metal manufacturing field are real.

  • Metals were one of the few durable goods where manufacturing increased in 2010. Employment in fabricated metal products manufacturing increased by 4.6%.

But those manufacturing companies have difficulties in recruiting the talented young machining experts having the right skills for their high-level job openings. All over France, school machining departments are being closed as they don’t get sufficient enrollment.

Considering that millions of people are actively seeking work and still cannot obtain employment and considering that in twenty years 90% of the current machinists are retiring, it is now more important than ever to do start better teaching with better equipment and better marketing for CNC manufacturing!

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Future manufacturing depends on young talent with advanced analytical skills

Posted by Bert Maes on December 2, 2010

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We don’t know how the manufacturing industry will look like in 15 years. But Accenture gives it a try in “A perspective on tomorrow’s high-performance manufacturing firms: what’s your plan for 2025?

The management consulting company touches concepts such as hyper-customization & crowdsourcing, respond more quickly and accurately to customer needs, and tightly align with suppliers.

But they admit that all these strategic activities and new models hinges on having young people with the right skills on the shop floor.

A first-order challenge in this regard will be getting enough people with the right “thinking” skills (beyond operator skills or pure technical skills), coaching and management skills to regions where operations are expanding or being put in place. Advanced analytical skills will be in especially high demand, says Accenture.

The challenge today is to teach young people the skills to interpret quantitative methods from data in customer behavior, the supply chain, product development, and production lines, and then use those insights to shape business decisions and, ultimately, to improve outcomes.

Manufacturers seems to have loads of shop floor data, but many struggle to make sense of it all. The goal is to use real-time data from shop-floor systems to quickly anticipate problems in cost, quality, productivity, or customer service so that staff can make immediate course corrections.

But, shortfalls of skilled labor are projected for the fastest-growing markets. India faces a potential shortage of 2.45 million engineers by 2020, and China’s gap in skilled professionals could reach 5.9 million by 2015. This raises serious questions about whether education systems, societies and individuals understand the demand issue correctly. The younger generation does not step up its technical, maths and business management skills.

And a lack of quality training and education also contributes to the shortages. Given the increasing complexity of technology, people will need more quality education, not less. And this needs to be done on the most modern equipment. None of the young talents will want to learn old systems.

A great approach is the Stepping Up To Algebra program, designed for 7th grade students who struggle in math. Xavier testifies “I never liked math, I always got bad grades, until I got into Stepping Up To Algebra. My teacher made me feel like I could be successful in math and that I was good enough to go to college. The field trip to San Jose State and the engineering department was great, and made me start thinking about college. Now I want to be an engineer.

But even if the quality of education improves, there appears to be a cultural aversion among youngsters to enter the STEM disciplines. Parents must encourage their children to enter these disciplines. Parent engagement is the cornerstone of academic achievement. And studying in technical fields is absolutely worth it.

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The Future of Modern Manufacturing Explained in 12 Tweets

Posted by Bert Maes on August 12, 2010

by Peter Zelinski ~

1. Technology is pushing in two directions—bigger and smaller. Manufacturers will continue to find fresh fields by meeting the demands for workpieces that are significantly different in scale from mid-sized parts with mid-sized tolerances. (see article: Going to Extremes)

2. The cost of manufacturing overseas is rising, but the cost of manufacturing in lower-cost areas of the U.S. is holding firm. The smart choice is proving to be not outsourcing internationally, but outsourcing from one U.S. region to another. Pennsylvania for example is less expensive than Chicago or Detroit. (also see article: “In tough times, many companies turn to outsourcing, yet that strategy may doom their products“)

3. As material prices increase the cost of stock, and as technologies such as 3D printing improve, manufacturers will increasingly employ additive part-making as an additional option alongside CNC machining(also read: “In the manufacturing industry of the future, sophisticated 3D automation and robots will play the key roles.”)

4. Even though manufacturing facilities have reduced their staff, demographics still predict an industry-challenging lack of technical and engineering talent. Young people are not entering manufacturing at a rate that is anywhere near fast enough to replace those who will retire.  (Check: US Report Skills Shortage and EU Report Skills Shortage)

5. On the other hand, population trends also bode well for U.S. manufacturers. A surge in new consumers is coming: the Millenials. This upcoming generation’s expectation of variety will favor short production runs. This in turn will favor an increased reliance on manufacturing in the United States.  (also view: beat offshoring by having a local ready stock and producing faster than firms with foreign factories.)

6. Manufacturing enterprises are much more diverse than what the government and media seem to be able to imagine. Much of our national conversation about manufacturing still focuses almost solely on “factory” production. (see article: The “factory” is one way we organize people and capital to produce real and useful things – but team of mechanically-minded people who come together is just enough)

7. The skills and other attributes needed in modern manufacturing are getting more difficult to define, particularly for small and lean facilities. The people who can best recognize these attributes are likely to be the ones who already have them. A manufacturer’s current employees are probably its best link to new employees. (find out: The 7 skills we should teach in technical education.)

8. Traditionally, the start-up shop was a job shop. Tomorrow, it might just as well be a captive shop. Cheaper, smaller and easier manufacturing equipment will produce a new sector: “basement manufacturing” of niche or custom products. (see articles: (1) machine tools used in non-shop locations and (2) the small batch movement, an example of the current Third Industrial Revolution in manufacturing)

9. Tool steel? Try tool aluminum. As product lives shrink, steel won’t automatically be the moldmaking material of choice. Increasingly, what was once called “soft” tooling will be seen as full production tooling.

10. Similar to what occurred in the aircraft industry some time ago, the medical device industry will be colonized by regulators. Processes will face new validation requirements, and the pace of innovation will slow. The requirements will also create barriers to competition, resulting in small and nimble manufacturers becoming large and established ones.

11. Any manufacturer today should look out across the production floor and ask: What would my process look like if it was more automated? Then ask: What steps can I take today to move in that direction? (also read: Automation protects the future of our economy’s manufacturing base.)

12. The United States is the world leader in terms of global manufacturing market share. U.S. manufacturing also has become significantly leaner, cleaner, more efficient and more responsive in just the last few years. To be sure, there are challenges. However, the idea that the United States is turning away from manufacturing is dramatically overstated. U.S. manufacturing will remain a leading economic force in the world for a long time to come.

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Forecast + List: The Most Durable Jobs of the Future

Posted by Bert Maes on August 3, 2010

We do expect continued growth in manufacturing of a fairly modest 5% or so this year and next year — which is stronger than the overall economy. I guess there are a couple of things driving that: One is exports have done well and we expect to continue to see growth in exports. Second, there is some recovery in investment in capital goods. It’s mostly metals inventory rebuilding and replenishing factories for equipment that has gone beyond its useful life. It’s not really adding to productive capacity; it is productivity improvement and simply replacement. Investment in equipment and software is growing, but still far below 2007/2008 levels. The only way to get faster growth in manufacturing is to bump up the export share.


Energy-Efficient Automobiles
Computer Software Engineer jobs
Electrical Engineer jobs
Engineering Technician jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Computer-Controlled Machine Operator jobs
Production Worker jobs
Operations Manager jobs

Building Retrofitting
Electrician jobs
Heating/Air Conditioning Installer jobs
Carpenter jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Roofer jobs
Insulation Installer jobs
Truck Driver jobs
Construction Manager jobs
Building Inspector jobs

Mass Transit
Civil Engineer jobs
Railroad jobs
Electrician jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Production Worker jobs
Bus Driver jobs
Transportation Supervisor jobs
Dispatcher jobs

Wind Power
Environmental Engineer jobs
Iron and Steel Worker jobs
Millwright jobs
Sheet Metal Worker jobs
Electrical Assembler jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Truck Driver jobs
Production Manager jobs
Production Supervisor jobs

Solar Power
Electrical Engineer jobs
Electrician jobs
Machinery Mechanic jobs
Welder jobs
Metal Fabricator jobs
Electrical Assembler jobs
Construction Equipment Operator jobs
Installation Technician jobs
Laborer jobs
Construction Manager jobs

Of course this all depends on
increased confidence of companies and consumers to invest,
healthier demand from exports markets,
streamlined permitting processes to start up exports,
a permanent favorable government business tax & fiscal policy in R&D, new technology, product development, increased efficiency etc,
easier access to low cost credit finance conditions,
and (6)
heavy & smart investments in technology-based education and export training.

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[Research] Start STEM education way earlier: from 5 through 9 years!

Posted by Bert Maes on July 28, 2010

Four researchers in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, biology, and education have found evidence that should transform our educational practices in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Their research is demonstrating that young children have the capacity to learn more than anyone previously imagined. Their key finding is that acquisition of information by the human brain is most rapid and efficient from birth to the preteenage years.

Our current pattern in formal science education is focused on 14-16-year-olds. By this point, however, we have entirely missed the optimal learning period for children, and the optimal moment to get young people attracted to science, engineering and manufacturing. The period from kindergarten through 4th grade is “a peak window of opportunity for teaching basic science concepts.

According to Bayer – regardless of gender, race or ethnicity – interest in science begins in early childhood. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents say they first became interested in science by age 11. This parallels the findings of a 1998 Bayer survey of American Ph.D. scientists: six-in-ten also reported interest in science by age 11.

It is important though that formal and informal science learning at such early age is embedded in social interaction. Human children readily learn through social interactions with other people.

Children spend nearly 80% of their waking hours outside of school. They learn at home; in community centers; in clubs; through the Internet; at museums, zoos, and aquariums; and through digital media and gaming. Encourage children as early as possible to play with construction toys, take things apart and put them back together again, play games that involve fitting objects into different places, draw, and work with their hands. These activities are often highly social and as such they maximize motivation and influences children’s interests, goals, and future choices.

In formal school settings, research shows that individual face-to-face tutoring is the most effective form of instruction. Students taught by professional tutors one on one show achievement levels that are two standard deviations higher than those of students in conventional instruction. One-to-one instruction in science at a very early age, combined with new learning technologies provides an interactive environment with step-by-step feedback, feed forward instructional hints to the user, and dynamic problem selection.

From the article The Future of Manufacturing is in the 3rd Grade: “It appeals to students with hands-on, project-based courses where students have fun while applying the fundamentals of science. (…) Students learned to make cars out of paper, catapults out of mouse traps and robots using computer software.

The benefits of such system are huge:

  • Create an immediate, strong engagement and intense connection with engineering from an early age.
  • Educational technology (for example, text messaging, Facebook, and Twitter) as social interaction tools can extend the sensitive period for learning.
  • Programs enhancing early social interactions produce significant long-term improvements in academic achievement, social adjustment, and economic success.
  • If you would add science as a subject at an early age you give the right input and the right learning opportunities at the right time to bring our economy the essential manufacturing specialists.

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[Video] Commitment to Manufacturing in Austria

Posted by Bert Maes on June 23, 2010

ÜAZ Metall Vorarlberg in Austria joined the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) program; THE partnership concept and international network for advanced, industry-relevant, inspiring CNC (Computer Numerical Control) manufacturing education across Europe.

Script in English:

This is the ÜAZ technical training establishment, in Vorarlberg, in the western-most region of Austria. On May 7th the school held a celebration to mark its fifth anniversary and the official opening of its Haas Technical Education Centre, which was set-up with the help and support of the Austrian Haas Factory Outlet – a division of Wematech.  The new, benchmark facility is part of the ÜAZ Metall department and boasts 28 Haas CNC machine tools, making it one of the three largest HTECs in the world.  Haas Automation launched the HTEC programme in 2007 to counter the shortage of young people with CNC machining skills who were entering the precision engineering sector. ÜAZ Metall offers practical training to youths who are socially or economically disadvantaged. “Our goal,” says Manfred Gollob “is to provide a top-quality technical education for youngsters who have fewer opportunities than others. We try to give the best technical education to students who are unfamiliar with the metalworking sector. We’re grateful to Haas for their help and support and we hope our collaboration continues for a long time to come.” The ÜAZ Metall HTEC will give 100 students a year the hands-on experience they need to make better lives and successful careers as CNC technologists.

Script in German:

Das ist das überbetriebliche Ausbildungszentrum (ÜAZ) in Vorarlberg in der westlichsten Region von Österreich.  Am 07. Mai beging die Schule feierlich den 5. Jahrestag ihrer Gründung und die offizielle Eröffnung ihres HTECs, das mit Hilfe und Unterstützung durch das österreichische Haas Factory Outlet (HFO), einer Sparte von Wematech, eingerichtet wurde.  Diese neue, Maßstäbe setzende Einrichtung ist Bestandteil des ÜAZ-Metall und gehört mit 28 CNC-Werkzeugmaschinen von Haas zu den drei größten HTECs weltweit. Haas Automation hat sein HTEC-Programm im Jahr 2007 ins Leben gerufen, um mehr Auszubildende für die Arbeit an CNC-Werkzeugmaschinen in der Präzisionsfertigung zu interessieren und so dem Mangel in diesem Bereich zu begegnen. Das ÜAZ-Metall bietet sozial oder wirtschaftlich benachteiligten Jugendlichen eine praktische Ausbildung an. „Unser Ziel besteht darin“, erklärt Manfred Gollob, „den Jugendlichen, die bisher weniger Chancen hatten als andere, eine technische Spitzenausbildung zur Verfügung zu stellen. Wir versuchen den Auszubildenden, die ansonsten keine Berührungspunkte mit der metallverarbeitenden Industrie haben, das bestmögliche technische Wissen vermitteln. Wir bedanken uns bei Haas für die Hilfe und Unterstützung und hoffen, dass unsere Zusammenarbeit noch lange andauern wird.“ Jedes Jahr werden in dem HTEC des ÜAZ-Metall 100 Auszubildende genau die Erfahrungen sammeln, die sie für eine erfolgreiche Laufbahn als CNC-Spezialist und ein besseres Leben benötigen.

Script in French:

Le centre est implanté à l’établissement de formation technique ÜAZ, basé à Vorarlberg, dans l’extrême ouest de l’Autriche. Le 7 mai dernier, à l’occasion de son cinquième anniversaire, l’école en a profité pour inaugurer son centre de formation technique Haas, mis en place avec l’aide et le soutien du HFO (Haas Factory Outlet) autrichien, une division de Wematech. Ce nouveau site étalon fait partie du département Metall de l’établissement ÜAZ et compte 28 machines CNC Haas, faisant de lui l’un des trois plus grands centres HTEC du monde. Haas Automation a lancé le programme HTEC en 2007 afin d’endiguer la pénurie de jeunes gens dotés de compétences d’usinage CNC dans l’industrie de la mécanique de précision. ÜAZ Metall propose une formation technique aux jeunes socialement ou économiquement défavorisés. « Notre objectif est d’offrir une formation technique de haute qualité aux jeunes jouissant de moins d’opportunités que les autres, » explique Manfred Gollob. « Nous visons à inculquer à des étudiants étrangers au secteur du travail des métaux la meilleure formation technique possible. Nous sommes reconnaissants à Haas pour son aide et son soutien et espérons que notre collaboration durera encore très longtemps. » Chaque année, le centre HTEC ÜAZ Metall permettra ainsi à 100 étudiants d’acquérir l’expérience pratique dont ils ont besoin pour parvenir à une vie meilleure et embrasser des carrières florissantes en tant que technologues CNC.

Script in Italian:

Si tratta dello stabilimento di formazione tecnica ÜAZ a Voralberg, nella regione occidentale dell’Austria.  Il 7 maggio la scuola ha festeggiato il suo 5º anniversario e l’inaugurazione ufficiale del suo centro HTEC che è stato allestito con l’aiuto e il supporto dell’Haas Factory Outlet austriaco, una divisione di Wematech. Il nuovo impianto di riferimento fa parte del dipartimento ÜAZ Metall e vanta 28 macchine utensili CNC Haas, il che lo rende uno dei tre più grandi centri HTEC al mondo. Haas Automation ha lanciato il programma HTEC nel 2007 per contrastare la carenza di giovani con competenze di lavorazione CNC che accedevano il settore dell’ingegneria di precisione. ÜAZ Metall offre corsi di formazione pratica ai giovani provenienti da ambienti socialmente o economicamente svantaggiati. “Il nostro obiettivo”, spiega Manfred Gollob, “è offrire un’istruzione tecnica della massima qualità ai giovani che dispongono di meno opportunità degli altri. Cerchiamo di offrire la migliore istruzione tecnica agli studenti che non hanno dimestichezza con il settore della lavorazione dei metalli. Siamo grati ad Haas per il suo aiuto e per il suo supporto e speriamo che la nostra collaborazione possa proseguire a lungo in futuro”. Il centro HTEC ÜAZ Metall offrirà a 100 studenti l’esperienza pratica di cui hanno bisogno per migliorare la loro qualità di vita e crearsi una carriera come tecnici CNC.

Script in Russian:

Это техническое учебное заведение ÜAZ в Форарльберге, на самом западе Австрии. 7 мая в данном учебном заведении проходил праздник пятой годовщины с момента его открытия и официального открытия Центра технического обучения Haas, который был создан благодаря помощи и поддержке официального представительства Haas в Австрии – отделения Wematech. Новый эталонный центр образования является частью факультета ÜAZ Metall и обладает более чем 28 станками Haas с ЧПУ, делая его одним из трех самых крупных HTEC в мире. Компания Haas начала реализацию программы HTEC в 2007 году с целью противостоять нехватке молодых людей в точном машиностроении, обладающих навыками работы на станках с ЧПУ. ÜAZ Metall предлагает практическое обучение для молодежи из малоимущих семей или социально неблагополучной среды. «Наша цель, – рассказывает Манфред Голлоб (Manfred Gollob), – обеспечить высшее качество технического образования для молодых людей с меньшими возможностями, чем у других». Мы хотим предоставить лучшее техническое обучение студентам, незнакомым с сектором металлообработки. Мы благодарны Haas за помощь и поддержку и надеемся на достаточно продолжительное сотрудничество». ÜAZ Metall HTEC предоставит 100 студентам год практического обучения для улучшения их жизни и построения успешной карьеры в качестве технологов ЧПУ.

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3 integrated solutions for the threatening manufacturing skills shortage

Posted by Bert Maes on April 2, 2010

Manufacturers all over the globe can’t find the right people with the right skills to fill manufacturer’s talent need (and to keep our manufacturing competitive)

See my statistics on US, Europe and China.

IndustryWeek has pointed to the evidence that appropriate training to meet current and forthcoming talent gaps remains elusive.

It’s not a simple problem, reports IndustryWeek. Some explanation for the challenges:

  • “Advances in technology,”  says Chuck Parke, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  “What was considered adequate 15 years ago would be nowhere near adequate today in certain machining applications.” (There is a similar quote in my blog post: why we’re failing math and science in engineering)
  • Outsourcing of low-skilled jobs to low-labor-cost countries. “The remaining jobs require a much higher skill level, and the average has gone up in terms of the amount of training needed per employee,” says Parke.
  • The high turnover rate of the workforce, due to layoffs, early buyouts of experienced workers
  • The mindset of many younger workers who don’t come to a manufacturing company and stay.
  • Training frequently is among the first things cut when business is difficult.
  • Thomas A. Kochan, professor of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says the basic problem is that U.S. manufacturing never has developed a close community of private industry and technical schools in any systematic way, although pockets of success exist.

Three integrated solutions:

  • Government should take a greater role “as a coordinating mechanism” to help develop a robust coordinated (non-disseminated) nationwide training program for manufacturing. [See my blog post: the future of manufacturing in Europe 2020]
  • Companies have to make ‘partnering with local educational institutions’ an integral part of their company’s strategic plan to support and obtain training and the best possible workforce. Nearly two-thirds of IndustryWeek’s Best Plants winners and finalists over the past five years have implemented that strategy. There could be a causal relation. [See my blog post: companies should get their hands dirty]
  • Educational establishment should extensively research the local business needs, which probably include good math skills, blueprint reading, robotics, programmable logic control and circuitry. Schools must establish close connections with the local industry community, to make sure the manufacturing curriculum’s content is relevant to what manufacturers need. [See my blog post: a business-driven model for technical education]

Related blog posts:

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Engineers have best bachelor salaries!

Posted by Bert Maes on March 17, 2010

Top-Paid Bachelor’s Degrees

Engineering disciplines dominate the list of top-paid bachelor’s degree:  eight of the 10 most highly paid degrees, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Major Average Salary Offer
Petroleum Engineering $86,220
Chemical Engineering $65,142
Mining & Mineral Engineering (incl. geological) $64,552
Computer Science $61,205
Computer Engineering $60,879
Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering $59,074
Mechanical Engineering $58,392
Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering $57,734
Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering $57,231
Information Sciences & Systems $54,038
Source: Winter 2010 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers. Data represent offers to bachelor’s degree candidates where 10 or more offers were reported.

The average starting salary reported for bachelor’s degree graduates as a whole is $48,351.

While a variety of factors play a role in determining salaries, new graduates with degrees in the technical fields tend to benefit from their relatively low supply. There is more competition for their skills, driving up their salary offers,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.

Candidates with technical degrees have a serious advantage in the job market!

Even stronger:

The Research Report of PricewaterhouseCoopers: “The economic benefits of a degree” found that the value of an engineering diploma is huge, as

over their lifetime people with engineering qualifications earn more than all other graduates, apart from medicine and dentistry specialists!

So if your goal in life is (1) “earning a lot of money” and (2) “making a real difference in the world“, I have only one advice: START A CAREER IN MANUFACTURING.

Posted in Statistics, Value of CNC | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Ways to enhance teens’ interest in manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on February 10, 2010

Many believe the key to strengthening the economy and competing globally lies in fostering an innovative culture and educating  youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

According to this year’s Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, an annual survey that gauges Americans’ perceptions about invention and innovation, teens are enthusiastic about these subjects, with 77 percent interested in pursuing a STEM career.

Some tips for STEM education to engage youth ages 12 through 17:

  • Hands-On Learning outside the classroom is the best way to get them interested in STEM careers:

    • Field trips to places where they can learn about STEM (66%)
    • Access to places outside the classroom where they can go to build things and conduct experiments (53%).

  • Teachers play a powerful role in exciting teens about STEM

    • More than half of teens (55%) would be more interested in STEM simply by having teachers who enjoy the subjects they teach.
    • 43%said that role models in STEM fields is crucial in teens’ motivations and would increase their interest in learning about these areas.
    • A large majority of respondents wished they knew more about STEM in order to create or invent something (85%).
    • Many might be discouraged from pursuing professions in these areas due to a lack of understanding of the subjects or what people in these fields do, and the societal impact that STEM professionals have (51%). This further illustrates the need for teachers and mentors in these areas.

= We have to offer kids QUALITY: the best teachers and the best technology!



Another survey, conducted on behalf of the American Society for Quality shows similar findings:

  • Kids don’t know much about engineering — 44%.
  • They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills — 21% — to be good at it.



The US National Science Foundation projects a shortage of 70,000 engineers in 2010. However… Engineering is a strong career choice:

There will always be a need for future engineers – not just in existing companies, but also to start new companies that provide the world with the next great innovation. Manufacturing is the backbone to our economy. When manufacturing is strong, our economy is strong. Manufacturing is strong when it produces products and technology that help to improve lives.

* Engineers make a world of difference.

* Engineers are creative problem-solvers.

* Engineers help shape the future.

* Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.

* Engineering is a satisfying profession that involves creative ideas and teamwork.

* And don’t forget the good salaries! Earn more than the rest…


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Study: Cognitive Skills Completely Describe Economic Growth

Posted by Bert Maes on January 28, 2010

A new study from the OECD provides evidence of the link between educational attainment and prosperity.

Published on January 27th, the study, entitled “The high cost of low educational performance”, asks “Why do some countries succeed economically while others don’t?

Their answer is: economies with better cognitive skills in mathematics and science innovate at a higher rate, generate more ideas and new technologies and improve their productivity much faster.

The OECD continues: “Regional growth over the last four decades is completely described by differences in cognitive skills”. The math and science skills of the labor force are directly related to economic growth.

This actually says that:

  • raising cognitive skills are a crucial force in economic development;
  • improvement in the quality of schools is so very important;
  • the potential gains from improving school is truly enormous;
  • educational achievements transform economies.

An improvement of 50-point higher average in mathematics and science performance in PISA scores generates a 0.87% higher economic growth every year.

Or even a 25-point increase in PISA scores, makes the GDP in 2042 rise more than 3% higher than what would be expected without improvements in cognitive skills. This would increase to a 5.5% improvement in 2050, 14.2% in 2070, and in 2090 about 25% above the “education as usual” level.

Over many decades, the small rise in average 0,87% annual growth rates could bring a stonking $115 trillion in extra wealth for its member countries by 2090, the OECD reckons.

You can see this is a long-term perspective, but still, the report concludes “the enormous economic gains, put in terms of current GDP, far outstrip the value of short-run business-cycle management of current issues of economic recession”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has cut $1 billion in California, the British government reduces spending on higher education by $980 million, half of American states will have spent all of their stimulus money ($787 billion) for education by the end of July. Cuts will follow, says the Economist.

These actions might be necessary (which I personally doubt), but the long-run issues should not be neglected. The economic value of successful school reform far exceeds any conceivable costs of improvement.

Countries must make substantial changes in raising the quality of learning outcomes now to reap the future benefits.

>> READ FULL STUDY: The High Cost of Low Educational Performance – The Long-Run Economic Impact of Improving PISA Outcomes (OECD, January 27th, 2010)

We welcome your views.

UPDATE: an additional graphic:

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8 Recommendations for Engineering Education in Europe

Posted by Bert Maes on January 27, 2010

In the European Union, there is considerable potential in the industry for growth and employment to 2020, through higher investment and innovation in key areas.

One of the recommendations from ORGALIME, The European Engineering Industries Association, is titledImprove the EU educational and engineering base”.

According to the ORGALIME/ELECTRA report 20 Solutions for Growth and Investment to 2020 and Beyond :

Skills shortage is a major point of concern for the electrical engineering industry which relies on highly skilled staff to develop its products. The industry is finding it increasingly difficult to meet its needs for these and other skilled staff.

A pro-active policy to ensure the supply of skilled labour is therefore key to the industry’s long-term success.

The following recommendations should contribute to that:

  • Accelerate the transfer of know-how from research institutes and universities to businesses: this is today insufficient.
  • Aim at achieving that all EU countries should send at least 50% of students through tertiary education (the level following the completion of high school, secondary school, or gymnasium).
  • Aim at attracting at least 25% of tertiary education students into technical, engineering and science education.
  • Provide for the possibility for equivalence of all technical degrees across the EU; implement science and engineering bachelor and master system across all EU countries, foster scientist and student exchanges across EU countries.
  • Attract engineering talent from abroad into the EU, including by starting a call-back programme for EU engineers and scientists now working in the U.S.A. or elsewhere outside the EU.
  • Encourage engineering apprenticeships
  • Initiate regular EU excellence competitions of EU science and engineering schools based on education results (not research).
  • Create transition points between technical education and bachelors (university) education.


The report adds: There are a number of centres of excellence in different industries across Europe.

However, in order to maximize the chances of achieving real economic benefits, more collaboration and a critical mass in innovative clusters & regional specialisation is necessary.


DEAR READER, I believe the recommendations are spot on. But I’m wondering, do you know such “centres of excellence”, either in Europe or the US?

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Why We’re Failing Math and Science in Engineering

Posted by Bert Maes on November 3, 2009

We will need:

  • Better Marketing
  • Better Teaching
  • Better Training Equipment

Some kids see mathematics as the gateway to engineering, paving the way to creation of new gadgets and technologies.

But most see mathematics as a gatekeeper, a suppression of creativity, denying entry to talented would-be engineers.

school_philosophers_mathematics_39299521 percent of the kids that would like to become an engineer don’t feel competent enough in their mathematics, geometry and science skills. They experience it as too difficult, boring, nerdy and irrelevant to their lives.

Not surprising as the message kids usually get is: maths and science are challenging, but if you work hard you can do it.

Instead we should tell kids (ScienceDaily June 25, 2008) that:

* Engineers make a world of difference.

* Engineers are creative problem-solvers.

* Engineers help shape the future.

* Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.

* Engineering is a satisfying profession that involves creative ideas and teamwork.

But the QUALITY OF TEACHING should change with it:

  • The Sputnik era came because there were idealists who said we’re in trouble as a country, we have to compete against the Russians. Today, we have to compete against the Chinese and Indians who are graduating tens of thousands more very talented science, math and engineering graduates from their colleges. They’re not doing better than we are at the college and university level, but they’re doing massively better than we are in the numbers. (Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania)
  • => We have to compete at quality. The way that’s going to happen is if we have leadership at the top and a real fear through this society that if we don’t compete better by educating our best students—which means getting the best teachers, which means rewarding them for results—we’re going to fall behind…  (Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Kevin Craig, professor of mechanical engineering: “One of the great failures in engineering education has been the inability of graduating students to integrate all they have learned — science, mathematics, engineering fundamentals — in the solution of real-world engineering problems (…) The college professors are teaching very little practical application engineering — but plenty of theory to their students. Which really does nothing to prepare the graduates for applying their skills to solving most of the problems encountered in the real world of Engineering and Design.” (
  • => The same comparison: “Nobody would accept training IT students with computers that are 25 years old, so why is it acceptable to use antiquated machines in the precision engineering industry, where technological developments are at least as fast?” (Kristin Alexandersson, CNC machine tool sales engineer for Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) Edströms Maskin)

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Why do kids say “no” to engineering?

Posted by Bert Maes on July 13, 2009

engineering toolsThe US National Science Foundation projects a shortage of 70,000 engineers by 2010.

According to a survey conducted on behalf of the American Society for Quality there is a variety of reason why 85 percent of youth, ages 8 to 17, say they are not interested in a future engineering career.

The top three reasons were:

  • Kids don’t know much about engineering — 44 percent.
  • Kids prefer a more exciting career than engineering — 30 percent.
  • They don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills — 21 percent — to be good at it.

>> What will be – according to you – the consequences for manufacturing companies and the world’s economy?


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