As I write this blog entry in July 2011 the unemployment rate is disturbingly stuck at just above nine percent, the 17th straight month it’s been at – or very near – that number.
I can imagine it must be frustrating to employers of engineers and other technical workers to see this many Americans out of work and to only have limited ability to help. To acquire the type of skills and talents needed, these same employers increasingly must look to candidates outside of the U.S. This type of structural unemployment has long existed, of course, but seems to be amplified as the STEM industries that have come to dominate the economy become more and more advanced.
Our leaders in government and industry are aware of this gap – the president himself continues to beat the drum that we can innovate our way out of the slump we’re in – and we’d like to recognize the folks at Ford for a recent effort to foster the skills of home-grown young people.
Ford recently put out an internal communication announcing their support of the Square One Education Network. The email stated:
"The impact (of too few engineers) is also significant for Ford Motor Company as we have gone through our restructuring and as the distribution of our workforce continues to change. As our “baby boomer” population prepares to retire, the supply of replacement engineering candidates will be under severe competitive pressure."
Programs like the Square One Education Network not only stimulate interest in STEM but also give young people an opportunity to experience what an engineering career is all about.
Square One gives teachers and students hands-on experiences that help young people understand how important engineering is to our future. Ford’s email went on to direct readers to the website you’re on now for examples of how we can get kids interested in engineering. It is encouraging to see such a large employer of engineers throw some weight behind this small-but-growing organization.
This is good PR, of course, but more and more, this kind of support emerges from the very real and tangible concerns these organizations have about remaining competitive. The almighty dollar is green…not red, white and blue. And as much as Ford and others may wish to hire a talented domestic workforce, they’ll ultimately do what they need to do to find the talent they need. We hope—as do they—they don’t have to look too far from home.
We have some great examples on this site of how companies support home-grown STEM talent. If you know of any more, we’d love to hear about them.