Sleepwalking schools are failing U.S. industry

If Rip Van Winkle were to awaken today after a 200-year nap, he would no doubt be stunned by the dramatic changes that had taken place – busy freeways, modern hospitals, humming factories and all the panoply of modern entertainment. But if he walked into a public school he would feel right at home – the same rigid class structure of children in straight-backed chairs and teachers at...

09/01/2006


If Rip Van Winkle were to awaken today after a 200-year nap, he would no doubt be stunned by the dramatic changes that had taken place %%MDASSML%% busy freeways, modern hospitals, humming factories and all the panoply of modern entertainment. But if he walked into a public school he would feel right at home %%MDASSML%% the same rigid class structure of children in straight-backed chairs and teachers at the head of the class giving lessons from blackboards and text books.

Education in the United States is bogged down in a time warp while the rest of the world progresses, and our educational failings pose a serious long-term threat to our way of life. According to the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, recognized as “The Nation's Report Card,” 46% of high school seniors tested below even a basic achievement level in science. Yet science, along with math, engineering and other critical vocational disciplines, is an essential building block of industrial and technological achievement.

Over the past century, America's economic growth has been built upon our leadership in innovation %%MDASSML%% a constant stream of exciting new products, processes and business models. U.S. manufacturing, which accounts for 60% of private sector research and development, has led the world into the modern age. It's sparked an era of rapid progress on many fronts and spurred growth in nearly every sector of the economy.

As a result, the U.S., despite the most intense global competition in history, remains the world's dominant manufacturing power. There is no such thing as a great world power without a manufacturing base, and thanks to our innovation leadership, we still have the world's best.

But our leadership in manufacturing innovation is not a birthright, and our foreign competitors are doing everything in their power to wrest it from us. Only a few years ago, manufacturing accounted for a much larger share of innovation than it does today.

The U.S. share of worldwide high-tech exports is in a 20-year decline, from 31% in 1980 to 18% in 2001. India and China are graduating more engineers than we are. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturers are wrestling with a serious shortage of qualified workers that undermines our ability to innovate and compete. It is highly-skilled workers that make possible the innovation which drives our economic growth, spurring higher productivity, higher wages and a higher standard of living.

Our education system is predicated upon an assumption that our best and brightest students should pursue four-year academic degrees, but not everyone is into Elizabethan poetry and philosophical discourse. As a result, most high school graduates have little awareness of career opportunities in manufacturing because educators and parents are channeling them toward traditional liberal arts degrees.

We need to do a much better job of synchronizing our educational system with the opportunities that abound in the workplace. This will involve greater stress on science, technology, engineering and mathematics while raising awareness among educators and students about the diverse career opportunities in manufacturing. The world will always need manufacturing and skilled manufacturing workers.

The question isn't how manufacturers will foster continued economic growth and innovation, but where. If we want to keep that manufacturing genius in America %%MDASSML%% and we do %%MDASSML%% we need to take aggressive action to ensure a highly-qualified 21st century industrial workforce.





Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me