BERT MAES

The Future of CNC Manufacturing Education – CNC Manufacturing, Education Reform & Change Management News.

Posts Tagged ‘women’

How to attract more students to technical education? Part 2: solutions

Posted by Bert Maes on April 26, 2010


In PART 1, I have discussed four reasons why technical education is often the worst, the least preferred education and career choice. Parents, peers, our general culture, and teachers are actually discouraging or even telling that a manufacturing career is inappropriate. The professional inside the industry –however– knows that manufacturing is “absolutely amazing, seriously cool, completely crucial to our survival”.

Knowing the problems, how could we transform CNC manufacturing education accordingly? What can teachers do in their classrooms?

Some ideas, inspired by Sir Ken Robinson:

1) Hands-on, real-life education

We need to create environments in elementary schools where every person is inspired to grow and find their creative strengths. Too many graduate unsure of their real talents and equally unsure of what direction to take next. Too many kids are discouraged to choose technical education. Many kids wouldn’t ask for more than always hands-on ‘making things’ that make a difference in the world. But most students never get to explore the full range of their abilities and interests, because of the expectations and actions of parents, friends, peers or teachers. If a kid wants to become a creator, they rarely get the support to do it.

Technical schools need to be places that excite imagination, helps finding individual passion and talents, offers opportunities to develop their individual abilities. Especially CNC manufacturing is the discipline to turn ideas into final products. What engages young people’s learning is the sense that it is real. “They love the sense of tangible accomplishment. It feels good to say ‘Hey, I built that!’” (Thayer). That is what puts them in the “flow”.

But what do adolescents get in school? Lots of theory, limited practices. In many educational establishments, the students are even no longer allowed to produce their own parts. However, research shows that kids of lose their attention in 3 minutes. They learn by doing. This pushes teachers in other roles: they’ll have to make the subjects very visual, hands-on, based on real-life problems. A teacher is becoming a coach that should be passionate and authentic.

Douglas Crets argues that

all these young people put all their energy into work that doesn’t have any impact on anyone else. They are being asked to produce work that nobody cares about. I absolutely think students should be producers. People want positive feedback and they want to know their work has greater impact.”

The whole idea is to inspire kids to learn by connecting their lessons to their place in the real world. Math means more when put in the context of running a cash register and estimating profits. Science comes alive when students use technology to make television shows. It’s giving the children a completely different perspective of why they are here. The best approach is linking the perceived enjoyment and creativity of design and technology to the underlying real-world application of the engineering field in e.g. providing everyone water, power and a modern place to live.

2) Investing in teachers

The best way to improve education is not to focus on curriculum or testing. The most powerful method of improving education is to invest in the improvement of teaching and the status of good teachers. It’s investing in teachers as mentors that understand kids’ talents, challenges and abilities and that give them maximum opportunities for delight, pleasure, curiosity, experimentation, fulfilment and accomplishment in shaping metal.

Many of these kids do better in school simply because they appreciated someone taking an interest in them. Good mentors open doors for us and get involved directly in our journeys. They show us the next steps and encourage us to take them. They recognize skills not yet noticed, they stand by to remind us of the skills we already posses and what we can achieve if we continue to work hard, they guide us, offer advice and techniques, paving the way for us, and allowing us to learn from our mistakes, they push us past what we see as our limits, reminding us that our goal should never be to be “average at our pursuits.

Benjamin Graham for example gave Warren Buffet the tools to explore the market’s possibilities. He was rare talent that could blossom into something extraordinary if nurtured. When mentors serve this function – either turning a light in a new world or fanning the flames of interest into genuine passion – they do exalted work.

The most successful people now, had the full support of a like-minded person(s) who see the world the way they do, who allow them to feel their most natural, who affirm their talents, who inspire them, influence them, and drive them to be their best and keep their spark alive.

The implication here is that teachers need to get time. With the constant need to fulfill obliged curricula and assessment tests, teachers hardly have time to cope with the day to day tasks of their work, let alone think about change, new structures or new educational methods, to coach students and to choose other forms of teaching and learning…

3) What some highly successful people have to say about this:

Paul McCartney said that

the best teacher I had was our English teacher. He was great. I was good with him because he understood our mentality as fifteen- and sixteen-year-old boys. We were studying Chaucer. It was like a completely foreign language. But he early turned me on to literature. He understood that the key for us would be sex and it was. When he turned that key, I was hooked.

Donald Lipski, an internationally known sculptor was bored in school.

When I should have been doing academic work, I was drawing or folding paper. Rather than being encouraged, I was chided for it. One teacher strongly encouraged my artistic talents. They had a very rudimentary welding setup in the sculpture department, and he taught me how to weld. To me it was like magic that I could actually takes pieces of steel and weld them together. It felt like everything I had done before in art was just child’s play. Welding steel and making steel sculptures was like real adult art. That inspirational teacher made me think that I could really make my life by making things”.

For Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post (one of the most widely read and frequently cited media brands on the internet) says a key factor in pursuing her dreams was the unwavering support of her mother:

she gave me that safe place, that sense that she would be there no matter what happened, whether I succeeded or failed”.

Ewa Laurance, known as “The Striking Viking”, the most famous female billiards player on the planet, wasn’t at all interested or good at geometry or physics at school.

For some reason, when I’m playing I see it a lot. I look at the table and I literally see lines and diagrams all over the place. Geometry at school did not get my attention. Maybe if I’d had a different teacher it would have been different – somebody that just said ‘Ewa, think of it this way,’ or, ‘look at it this way and you will get it’. Or they could have taken our whole class to a poolroom and said, ‘Check this out!’ But it was so boring at school.

Ryan Pohl told me he has three young children, and his wife in constantly encouraging them to build and create using their imaginations, as opposed to conquering the latest level on a video game!

We can already notice the difference in cognitive abilities, and creative abilities between our children and their peers who have less time to be creative. My children can choose whatever path they desire for life, but hopefully with this approach they will always value making THINGS!

Ed Neale, account director at Armitage Communications wrote on my blog:

My teachers effectively killed off the subjects, failing to convey either any degree of passion or any idea of how what they were teaching could be applied in real life. It is only since I have been working in the sector that I have realised the massive significance of its contribution to society, both in terms of the day-to-day products we take for granted and also in addressing the longer term environmental issues we’re now facing and need to tackle as a priority.

>> Dear Reader: Have you got a testimony like this? LET’S SHARE YOUR STORY!

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Posted in Policy, Solutions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

10 ways to attract women to manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on March 25, 2010


After publishing the popular blog post “ways to enhance teens’ interest in manufacturing” a reader pointed me to a specific key problem we are facing today: attracting women to manufacturing. That is indeed a great topic to write about.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are widely regarded as critical to be competitive in the global economy. Just over 4% of the workforce is employed directly in science, engineering, and technology. This relatively small group of workers is considered to be critical to economic innovation and productivity.

So, expanding and developing the STEM workforce is a critical issue for government, industry leaders, and educators. A key challenge is attracting women to manufacturing. Men continue to outnumber women. The difference is dramatic, with women earning only 6,7% of bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering. In a 2009 survey only 5% of the girls said they were interested in an engineering career. But…attracting and retaining more women in the manufacturing workforce will maximize innovation, creativity, and competitiveness.

The report “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” (by the American Association of University Women), bringing together eight recent research conclusions, addresses why there are still so few women in manufacturing, despite the fact that women in engineering tend to earn more than women in other sectors; despite the fact that many STEM careers can provide women increased earning potential and greater economic security.

TO PARENTS and TEACHERS

It is a psychological belief in our culture that … women lack the aptitude to succeed in STEM fields.

Hearing or sensing such thoughts and misconceptions in the immediate environment is affecting individual career choices! It is simply breaking down girls’ self-confidence in their math and science ability.

Many girls believe that they are “not good” in math and engineering, because they just notice in our culture that women in manufacturing careers are inappropriate. It is a societal expectation for girls to consider future education and careers in the humanities, life and health sciences or social sciences rather than engineering fields. A survey with more than a half million people from around the world has shown that more than 70 percent of the test takers associated “male” with science and “female” with arts. The idea that girls aren’t good at science is simply floating in the air we breathe. This is how we prevent girls and women from pursuing engineering. Such implicit beliefs directly influence parents’ decisions to encourage or discourage their daughters from pursuing science and engineering careers.

FIVE (5) SOLUTIONS

First, girls today are even earning slightly higher grades in math and science! However, the false belief that girls are not as capable in math and science as boys actually lowers girls’ test performance. To avoid failure, girls simply avoid math and science altogether. If girls do not believe they have the ability to become an engineer, they will disengage from STEM as a potential career and choose to be something else.

  1. When schools, workplaces, the home environment and individuals send the message that girls and boys are equally capable of achieving in math and science, girls are more likely to assess their abilities more accurately, are more likely to succeed and are more likely to see manufacturing as a viable career choice.
  2. Teachers have to learn the girls in their classrooms that intelligence is changeable, developed through effort, dedication, persistence and challenges. The more teachers and parents can show self-improvement (and not inherent ability) as the road to genius, and the more they can help girls to enjoy that effort, the more confident, the more interested and the more excited they will be.
  3. Manufacturing skills are perfectly acquirable for girls. Math skills, but especially “spatial skills” (such as mental rotation of objects, mechanical drawing, sketching multi-view drawings of simple objects) is seen as essential to success in engineering, because these skills are needed to interpret diagrams and drawings. It is a fact that in “spatial thinking” men consistently outperform women. Many girls leave their engineering education, frustrated because they can’t cope with this aspect. However, a practical training course in “spatial skills” improves the average scores in such tests from an average score of 52% before taking the class to 82% after taking it. Offering this kind of training in middle school or earlier will make a big difference in girls’ choices. They will be more likely to develop their confidence and consider a future in a STEM field.
  4. Those spatial skills are also developed by encouraging children to play with construction toys such as Legos, take things apart and put them back together again, play games that involve fitting objects into different places, draw, and work with their hands. This actually gives an immediate, strong engagement and intense connection with engineering from an early age. In fact, according to Bayer, interest in engineering begins early childhood, i.e. by age 11!!

Second, many girls are not interested in manufacturing, as too often the training programs are focused on the machines, the technical aspects of programming, and not on the broader applications. As a result many girls leave their STEM education early in their school careers. 60% of a Bayer survey of 1226 women cited that the school is the leading place where discouragement from pursuing a STEM career happens. According to 70% elementary school teachers play a bigger role than parents in stimulating and sustaining interest in engineering.

  1. Teachers (and parents) forget to project manufacturing specialists as people making a social contribution, as people beneficial for society, as problem solvers of some of the most vexing challenges of our time— tackling global warming, providing people with clean drinking water, developing renewable energy sources, designing many of the things we use daily—buildings, bridges, computers, cars, wheelchairs, and X-ray machines. That expansion of the field makes manufacturing more meaningful. Curricula have to be redesigned with adding introductory courses that show the wide variety of manufacturing applications and career opportunities.

Bayer concludes that the top three causes/contributors to underrepresentation in STEM include

  • Lack of quality science and math education programs  (75%),
  • Persistent stereotypes that say STEM isn’t for girls or minorities (66%)
  • Financial issues related to the cost of education (53%)

Dr. Julie Martin Trenor concludes there are still many barriers for women:

  • Confidence in math/science abilities
  • Poor math preparation
  • Lack of K-12 engineering courses
  • Lack of female engineering role models (90% know an engineer) or few role models available in the public eye. Engineers are rarely portrayed in prime time television, unlike lawyers (in Law & Order) and Doctors (in Grey’s Anatomy, E.R., House)
  • Parental encouragement
  • Peer pressure to go into “popular” programs
  • Negative messages, gender-biased attitudes exist everywhere

TO COMPANIES: FIVE (5) RECOMMENDATIONS:

Job satisfaction is a key to retention of women in manufacturing. Female STEM specialists express lower job satisfaction than do their male peers. This lower satisfaction leads to a loss of talent in manufacturing. In high-tech companies, more than 41% of their female employees quit their jobs (compared with only 17% of their male employees) by midcareer – about 10 years into their careers.

  1. Isolation and lack of mentoring are particularly acute source of dissatisfaction. For women in STEM good professional and personal interactions with colleagues, management interest in their professional development are critically important for women.
  2. The ability to balance work and family responsibilities also contributes to overall satisfaction. For many women in manufacturing it is difficult to just pack up and go home, as they see that as deadly for their careers. Many women have the impression that to be successful, they have to achieve exceptionally high levels to be noticed among all those men. It is important to create reasonable work schedules and to not penalize women for reduced productivity while having young children.
  3. Child care is a huge issue in this. Establishing universal, high-quality child supports work-life balance and is critical to female job satisfaction.
  4. When a woman in manufacturing is being successful, she is immediately judged as cold, pushy, too macho and not charming enough. When a woman is clearly competent in a “masculine” manufacturing job, she is considered to be less likable. The big problem is that being disliked appears to have clear consequences for evaluation and recommendations about reward allocation, including salary levels, ie. their overall career outcomes. So in the manufacturing industry, women have to do MORE than men: they have to be competent ànd tough ànd understanding ànd concerned about others ànd helpful ànd increase her employees’ sense of belonging, etcetera. There is a need for fairness of evaluation: clear criteria for success, clear rules about advancement and transparency in the evaluation process.
  5. Expose local school students to the female employees in your company, who can describe the lives of female engineers, who can talk about the people-oriented (away from the antisocial geek image) and socially beneficial aspects of engineering, who can help students see their struggles in class as a normal part of the learning process rather than as a signal of low ability… who can show girls that female engineers can be successful. You can find a few examples in our section “Women in Manufacturing

Bayer and Dr. Trenor conclude that the leading workforce barriers for female manufacturing specialists include

  • it is harder for women to succeed in their field than it is for men (70%)
  • managerial bias (40%)
  • company/organizational/institutional bias (38%)
  • lack of professional development (36%)
  • no/little access to networking opportunities (35%)
  • lack of promotional/advancement opportunities (35%)
  • Isolation
  • To attract women to manufacturing the field and profession should be socially-conscious, application-driven, and team-based.

Posted in Solutions, Statistics, Women in Manufacturing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

[Portrait] Women in Manufacturing – Klara Kaczkowska

Posted by Bert Maes on November 4, 2009


Women can make a real difference in manufacturing. Today, there is nothing more relevant for our society than making things, creating technology, with a female eye for detail.

Klara KaczkowskaFor the past 2 years, Klara Kaczkowska has worked as a CNC machine tool engineer with Abplanalp Consulting: A highly successful Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) in Warszawa, Poland.  From an early age Klara was always inquisitive about how things were put together, so it didn’t surprise her friends and family when she chose to study for a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and then a career in what is still a relatively male dominated industry.

“I got a lot of admiration from my family and friends for choosing to follow a career path that is a little unusual for a woman,” she explains. “For me, it felt great to know I was doing something I loved, but that was also a little bit different from the norm.” As a child, Klara enjoyed helping her father, who was a car mechanic. “When we were working in his garage I became used to technical terminology which gave me such a great grounding for my later studies.”
In addition to her current work commitments at HFO Abplanalp, Klara has also found time to continue with her education and in July of this year she finished her second phase of studies: A Masters degree in Management and Production Engineering.

Klara’s role at the HFO is split between two areas: She works part of her week as contract manager, where she uses her extensive professional knowledge to advise on technical documentation for Haas machines; the other half of her week she works as a technical assistant.

“I definitely prefer the time I spend as a technical assistant”, she says. “I have been lucky that this part of my role has always linked well to my educational back ground.  This is my first permanent job and my experience with Abplanalp over the last 2 years has done so much to help me acquire more practical knowledge of CNC machine processing.  This is what I’m truly interested in.”

Klara has also been involved with the development of Haas Technical Education Centres (HTECs) in Poland.

“The HTEC program provides a good CNC machine tool education for students and it’s great to be part of creating a friendly environment to encourage students to practice their skills. Among other things, I’m involved with helping to raise the awareness that the equipment needs to be updated on a regular basis to ensure that the students are continuing to train on current models; I firmly believe that this up-to-date knowledge is essential grounding for their futures as precision engineers.

Klara works hard to encourage others like her to overcome the perception that the machine tool industry is stereotypically for men, and to pursue a rewarding and exciting career in the sector.

“I’m very proud of my achievements as an engineer,” she says, “and I’m eager to progress even further with my professional development. Whenever I get the chance I encourage other women to take up the challenge, as I did.  It is such a great industry to be in and offers many opportunities for both men and women alike.”

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[Portrait] Women in Manufacturing – Melanie Cattaruzza

Posted by Bert Maes on August 14, 2009


Women can make a real difference in manufacturing. Today, there is nothing more relevant for our society than making things, creating technology, with a female eye for detail.

Melanie editSince August 2007 trainee service engineer Melanie Cattaruzza has been working at Urma AG – Switzerland’s Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) – while she simultaneously pursues formal studies in mechanical engineering.

Melanie’s day-to-day activities complement her education and also expose her to a wide variety of tasks and training that are helping her learn about an industry that, she says, she has grown to love.

“My daily routine usually starts with the documenting of coolant lubricants in all of the machines,” says Melanie. “I will then either be doing CNC milling, turning or drilling work-pieces based on blueprints I am given. It varies every day.”

Melanie is in her 2nd year of a 4-year mechanical engineering course and takes one day out of each week to attend her classes. Throughout every step of the program, Urma supports her training, and the company managers mentor her and eight of her colleagues. “What we cover on the course is pretty extensive”, she explains. “I have to produce many work pieces from the Urma production program and each one has to demonstrate a knowledge of materials, programming, production planning, manufacturing and quality control.”

“After passing her intermediate examination in June 2009, Melanie is looking ahead. She says, “Next, I would like to continue my training in CNC mechanical engineering.”

Urma has an attractive manufacturing training program, so I have lots of opportunities to develop my skills further. My goal is to work for the Haas Factory Outlet in a service technician role. Or, I may take my career further in the direction of general manufacturing.”

Traditionally, the machine-tool industry has been a male-dominated environment, but times are changing as more young women like Melanie discover that oily workshops and outdated technology are things of the past. “I always wanted to work with machines,” Melanie explains. “When I was very young I liked to tinker around with motorbikes, with my older brothers. I wasn’t interested in playing with dolls. I became curious about how parts were manufactured and it was this that ultimately led me to enroll in the introductory course at HFO Urma.”

When she isn’t at work, Melanie still indulges her love of two-wheels by competing in Supermoto street races on a 250cc, CCM motorcycle. Whilst her choice of career and past-time may not be typical for a young woman, Melanie says her friends and family are very supportive. “It’s cool being a woman and taking part in what many regard as men-only activities,” she says. “People are often surprised at my choices, but when they get to know me they can see how much I love what I do.”

For other women interested in getting a start in precision engineering and the CNC machine tool industry there are multiple paths to choose from but Melanie has chosen one with formal training and the very latest technology at its core.

“I know that gaining a good educational foundation will help to make me a valuable employee”, she explains. Training with the very best technology will also pay dividends.


Since August 2007 trainee service engineer Melanie Cattaruzza has been working at Urma
AG – Switzerland’s Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) – while she simultaneously pursues formal
studies in mechanical engineering.
Melanie’s day‐to‐day activities complement her education and also expose her to a wide
variety of tasks and training that are helping her learn about an industry that, she says,
she has grown to love.
“My daily routine usually starts with the documenting of coolant lubricants in all of the
machines,” says Melanie. “I will then either be doing CNC milling, turning or drilling
work‐pieces based on blueprints I am given. It varies every day.”
Melanie is in her 2nd year of a 4‐year mechanical engineering course and takes one day out
of each week to attend her classes. Throughout every step of the program, Urma supports
her training, and the company managers mentor her and eight of her colleagues. “What
we cover on the course is pretty extensive”, she explains. “I have to produce many work
pieces from the Urma production program and each one has to demonstrate a knowledge
of materials, programming, production planning, manufacturing and quality control.”

Posted in Women in Manufacturing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

[Portrait] Women in Manufacturing – Jo Ann Mitchell

Posted by Bert Maes on August 12, 2009


Women can make a real difference in manufacturing. Today, there is nothing more relevant for our society than making things, creating technology, with a female eye for detail.

JoAnn#1Jo Ann Mitchell is a woman forging a career in the male-dominated world of machine tools, working as a Machine Investment Support Specialist for world-leading tooling company and Haas Technical Education Centre (HTEC) program partner, Sandvik Coromant.

As well as her day-to-day responsibilities, Jo Ann’s role gives her the opportunity to work with the local HTEC in Allendale, New Jersey, USA: an involvement with grass-roots engineering education that she relishes and speaks about with a passion.

“Being involved with the HTEC program and sharing its commitment to the success of precision engineering students is very gratifying,” she says. “It gives me huge, personal and professional satisfaction that Sandvik is an HTEC partner and that I’m able to see students developing problem solving skills in both theoretical and also practical situations.” Before working for Sandvik, Jo Ann worked as a teacher so education is a subject that is close to her heart.

In addition to holding down a full-time career, Jo Ann is also studying for an MBA and recently submitted a course-work paper entitled Doing Well by Doing Good: an examination of the Haas HTEC network and its positive benefits both to the California based machine tool builder and also to participating students.

“The MBA assignment was to present a company that – while profit motivated – creates something for the general good, or for a particular segment of society,” she explains. “Several of us at Sandvik Coromant had been working with the HTECs prior to this assignment and the chance to address the value of technical education to the student and the sponsoring company seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.”  Jo Ann’s enthusiasm for the subject matter obviously shone through: her submission gained her an A-grade and very favorable comments from her tutors.

Jo Ann’s parents worked in industry, which meant choosing a career in precision engineering seemed very natural. “There was a time when generally, women were not encouraged to pursue science or engineering as careers,” she says. “ I was very fortunate to have very technically minded parents. They encouraged my curiosity and helped with my kitchen-table experiments! When I was very small, my family went to the World’s Fair in New York where I spent time watching a chemical engineer make nylon out of materials poured from two test tubes. I have been fascinated by how things are made ever since

There is no doubt that Jo Ann’s experience in machine tool technology and in education, both as a student and an educator, makes her a perfect mentor for other up and coming HTEC students.

Engineering allows you to problem solve with some of the most innovative and smartest people on the planet.” She says, “This has been my experience since childhood, but not everyone is so lucky.  That’s why I enjoy working with the HTEC program. It gives me the chance to share some of my experiences with up-and-coming students”

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[Portrait] Women in Manufacturing – Kristin Alexandersson

Posted by Bert Maes on August 10, 2009


Women can make a real difference in manufacturing. Today, there is nothing more relevant for our society than making things, creating technology, with a female eye for detail.

FemaleStudentsKristin Alexandersson is a rarity: a young woman building a successful career in the typically male dominated world of CNC machine tool sales. For three and a half years, she has been working as a CNC machine tool sales engineer for Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) Edströms Maskin in Jönköping, Sweden.

Kristin originally studied social psychology. But, soon after she completed her course her career took an unpredicted turn towards engineering when she discovered a 2-year post-graduate course in industrial leadership and automation.

‘I never considered a career in precision engineering or manufacturing when I was thinking about my study options’, Kristin explains. ‘The idea was never presented to me in an inspiring way and my early impressions of industry were not favourable.

‘When I applied for the job at Edströms I didn’t know much about the machines I would be selling,” she explains, “but my university course had given me a good foundation and it was this, and my study of automation, that appealed to the company.

’ Kristin also works on Edströms’ HTEC program in Sweden, acting as an intermediary between schools and the HTEC partner companies, as well as organising seminars for the students.

‘The HTEC program is a brilliant and positive program for young people interested in engineering”, she explains. “We are working to increase the number of students who are enrolling but I would also like to work with the HTEC to reach out to more female students as I think the industry has so much to offer them.

Kristin explains, ‘as a woman, I am in the minority in engineering but this actually works very well for me. Because it’s unusual for my clients to deal with women, I think they remember me. Making an impression is important in sales and it is a tough environment so I feel that being a women certainly helps keep me in the forefront of people’s minds.

Inadvertently, Kristin has become a role model for female engineering students at Edströms’ HTECs and hopes to encourage more of them to embrace a career in engineering.

Today’s manufacturing industry is hi-tech and stimulating,’ she says. ‘I think all of the reasons why women traditionally wouldn’t have considered engineering careers have been eliminated. These days, it’s a knowledge-based profession men and women can do the job equally well and also earn the same money. The HTEC program is definitely helping to get the message out and also to provide the next generation of female engineers with the support they need.’

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Jill Biden: Community Colleges Are a Key US Export

Posted by Bert Maes on July 14, 2009


Jill Biden

As a European I’m on my way to the United States, so posting an American point of view seems appropriate, isn’t it?

Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and a longtime teacher and 2007 doctorate in education , said the right things last week Tuesday to The New York Times:

  • Community colleges are a powerful tool to help recovering and revitalizing the economy in the United States.
  • Community colleges are the way of the future. Now with people losing their jobs, they’re a great place to go for new training.
  • They lead the way in preparing graduates in the fields of green technology, health care, teaching and information technology — some of the fastest growing fields in America and the rest of the world…

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Report: Shortage of Skilled Workers in Manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on June 19, 2009


The University of Bremen (Germany) has sent me a very interesting report called “SOS Shortage of Skilled Workers: A comparison of the European Metal Industry and Electrical Industry (July 2008)” – A summary:

  • Between 10% (Germany) and 30% (Slovenia) of the manufacturing enterprises in Europe are experiencing a dramatic increase of losses in production due to a lack of skilled workers. These percentages have continuously increased since 2005.
  • In Austria -in 2006- there were three occupations of the metal and electrical sector with more job vacancies than unemployed persons: welders, turners and milling workers.

>> CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS:

* Young graduates do not meet the requirements of the enterprises. There is a serious lack of technical and practical knowledge and high-level skills linked to:

  • The increasing variety of materials, applications and relevant technologies in the sector = Young people need understanding of higher developed, more sophisticated technologies;

  • The increasingly intellectual and service requirements: project management + maintenance/ inspection + instruction/ training, customer services + CAD/CAM programming,… = Young people need training of leadership competences and communication skills;
  • Higher complexity and variety of the tasks (flexibility!) due to the rapidly changing needs and expectations of the customers = needing continuous training to understand ever more complex production processes.

= technical education needs to be strengthened urgently. Training curricula and didactics should be completely re-designed and improved, towards modern know-how, the above skills and extensive practical experience.

* The swift demographic change

  • The recruitment of skilled personnel is increasingly getting more difficult as the share of the elderly population will dramatically increase and less young skilled workers enter the labour market;
  • With the retirement of older employees there will be a loss of know-how, performance and productivity. A lack of young staff can do a lot of harm to innovations.
  • Vital is a systematic development of training for older employees and the challenge to win women for technical occupations.

* Companies often miss committed prospective personnel policies:

  • Enterprises find it difficult to source information about funding for training to bridge the skill gaps; companies should be given help and advice to integrate skills development into the entire company strategy.
  • Many companies are cutting back on investments in further training and personnel development, whereas enterprises in Austria investing in training have no problems in finding skilled workers…

Personnel Shortage

Notice the similarities with this chart: Evolution Manufacturing Education

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