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Manufacturing companies and an educated workforce

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Manufacturing companies rely on the knowledge and capabilities of skilled workers to keep their businesses going.  As a result, manufacturers should be, and often are, proponents of programs that encourage education in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.

Education has been, and continues to be, an important concern for companies. According to the Center for Corporate Citizenship Community Involvement Index, education ranks as a critical social issue in terms of company community involvement, and has been so for the sixteen years the index has measured company interest. On a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being “least critical” and 5 being “most critical,” education received a score of 4.1 from company respondents. Research also shows a significant connection between particular industries and types of educational programs. Companies in the information, utility, and manufacturing industries placed STEM education and training initiatives specifically among their top three corporate citizenship priorities.

The relationship between manufacturing companies and education initiatives is robust for two reasons. First, the need for skilled manufacturers is currently quite high. As shown in the Manpower Group’s 2014 Annual Talent Shortage Survey, skilled trade jobs are listed first in terms of demand globally, second only to technicians in the Americas. Additionally, according to the Manufacturing Institute’s 2014 Manufacturing Skills and Training Study, 80 percent of manufacturers reported having either a moderate or severe shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly skilled production positions. Second, since STEM-related knowledge is an essential part of manufacturing companies’ competencies, efforts in this realm are a natural fit when developing corporate citizenship strategies. Research shows that when companies work to integrate their corporate citizenship efforts with the goals of their business, their employees are more engaged in these efforts and initiatives tend to be more successful.

Manufacturing companies have the ability to impact various demographic groups and implement different types of programs through their education initiatives. For example, companies can engage at all levels of education, from early childhood programs to community college to workforce training. Programs may also choose to focus on specific groups, such as women, who tend to be underrepresented in STEM-related careers. Organizations can also be creative when it comes to the types of support they offer. Companies may provide assistance through monetary donations given directly to schools and educational nonprofits, or through product donation, which can provide access to technology that might otherwise be unavailable. Initiatives can also make use of time and expertise, such as mentoring students or helping educators and counselors understand the skills needed for jobs in the manufacturing sector.

In order to further explore how manufacturing companies use their corporate citizenship efforts to address educational needs, we will hear from three member companies during our July webinar that have experience implementing these programs. The Alcoa Foundation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Applied Materials Foundation all recognize the need for continued support of educational programs, especially those that focus upon STEM. Some highlights of their efforts include:

  • The Alcoa Foundation has multiple educational support programs, from a partnership with Junior Achievement that seeks to encourage high school students in ten different countries to pursue STEM-related careers, to a robotics competition between high school students from the US, Europe, and China that provides a hands-on, exciting, and fun opportunity to engage in technical engineering.
  • Lockheed Martin implements a number of programs such as Girls, Inc., which partners employees with girls aged 9-11 to foster encouragement and build confidence, leading to the pursuit of STEM-related careers, They also partner with Project Lead the Way, the United States’ leading provider of STEM educational services, from K-12 curriculum to educator professional development.
  • Applied Materials began their Education Initiative in 2001 as a localized, targeted program that began in one school to give underserved students better access to quality education.  Their pilot program in San Jose, CA has since expanded nationwide to a number of local communities in which Applied Materials has a corporate presence.

To hear more about these members’ experiences and the important connection between education and manufacturing, please join us for our webinar on July 9, 2014 at 12:00 PM EST. Click here to sign up for the event.

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