If the many approaches to tackling the current—and mitigating the future—shortage of skilled workers needed throughout supply chains are programs focused on introducing students as early as middle school to careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. These efforts include special daylong events spearheaded by national and regional organizations and post-secondary educational institutions.
In the Charlotte, NC region—where MHI is headquartered—at least two such entities exist: the STEM Development Foundation (stemdevelopmentfoundation.org) and the Passport to STEM initiative at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) (cpcc.edu/stem). MHI’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, as well as a few MHI member companies located within the area, have both sponsored and participated in activities presented by these programs.
The STEM Development Foundation was created by Comporium, a South Carolina-based communications company, to increase interest in STEM careers and foster the talent pipeline needed for economic development, explains Ed Duffy, executive director. By working closely with industry and all levels of education to educate local students about the career pathways to these jobs, the foundation is responding to the critical need of new and expanding regional industries for talent.
“Within a single generation, the sophistication and diversity of careers available within an hour’s drive of Charlotte has changed dramatically,” he says. “For example, several textile mills closed shortly after I moved here in the mid-1980s, and agriculture has shifted significantly as well. Since then we’ve seen an influx of more automotive manufacturers and e-commerce fulfillment, both of which are using more technologies in their operations.”
Yet the subsequent transition in the types of available jobs these new companies have brought into the region are not well understood by parents, teachers, school counselors, grandparents or students—who came from a different work culture, Duffy continues.
“Students and their families see a new company come in, but don’t really know where they might fit within it, or the type of education, training and technical skills they need to be hired on by these operations,” he says.