DEARBORN, Mich. - By the year 2010, the United States will have a half a million new manufacturing jobs. Leaders in education and business are concerned that because fewer and fewer young people are pursuing careers in manufacturing, engineering, science and technology, we won't be able to fill these jobs with competent workers.
The Education Foundation of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is focused on building awareness and interest in these careers, especially among female and minority students, who are already underrepresented in these areas, and it recently launched a new "Building the Future" Award that recognize excellence in programs that will inspire middle school students to pursue future careers in manufacturing, engineering, science and technology.
This year's $5,000 "Building the Future Award" was presented to Careers in Engineering for Women (CEW) (pronounced "Q") Program at the University of Texas at Austin.
Three other programs received honorable mentions: the Building Big Program sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Girls Researching Our World (GROW) Project based at Kansas State University, and the Tech Ed Program at Southwest Middle School in Rapid City, S.D.
A recent ACT, Inc. policy report, "Maintaining a Strong Engineering Workforce," examined 12-year trends of more than 750,000 ACT test takers. According to the report, the overall number of students planning to major in engineering has decreased dramatically in the past decade. In light of shifting demographics, females and minorities were identified as an untapped source of talent needed to lead the high-tech economy and culture. To do so, they must receive early encouragement in the form of engineering exploration in middle school, affirmation of the value of taking advanced mathematics and science in high school, and support in college. Programs like CEW helps them receive these opportunities.
The winners were selected by the SME-EF National Youth Council, which launched the Building the Future Award program in February 2003. In just its first year the award attracted 27 entrants from across the country. Nominations are judged on program impact, level of collaboration between multiple organizations, and the potential forreplication.
"The committee was extremely impressed with the number of nominations we received and the high quality of the programs represented," noted Sherril West, vice president of the SME-EF Board of Directors, member of the Council, and vice president, Technical Services, of Caterpillar Inc. "We hope organizations across the country will be able to learn from these best practices, and improve or expand their own programs to introduce the exciting world of manufacturing to our future workforce. These programs truly can make a difference."
The Women in Engineering Program within the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin began CEW in the summer of 1992. Since then, the free program has empowered and educated almost 1,000 young women from all across the state of Texas. CEW participants are introduced to engineering through a design challenge, hands-on activities, tours and presentations, and by meeting many outstanding female engineers. Last year, more than 500 girls applied for the 80 available spaces in the two weeklong sessions.
The SME-EF National Youth Council was organized in 2002 to support programming that reaches students at a young age. The Council is dedicated to increasing partnerships and collaborations among nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and companies that work toward developing a diverse and skilled manufacturing, engineering, science, and technology workforce.
The National Youth Council works closely with the SME-EF Board of Directors to determine the future direction of youth programs for the Foundation, and oversees the Science, Technology & Engineering Preview Summer Camp (STEPS) Program and other youth outreach efforts.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers is the world's leading professional society supporting manufacturing education. Through its member programs,publications, expositions, and professional development resources, SME promotes an increased awareness of manufacturing engineering and helps keep manufacturing professionals up to date on leading trends and technologies. Headquartered in Michigan, SME influences more than half a million manufacturing engineers and executives annually. The Society has members in 70 countries and is supported by a network of hundreds of chapters worldwide. Visit us at www.sme.org.