While there has been a significant loss of repetitive manufacturing jobs, workers with engineering and high-tech skills remain in demand and are vital to keeping manufacturing and the economy going. A recent survey conducted by Deloitte, Oracle, and the Manufacturing Institute revealed that more than half of U.S. manufacturers reported significant shortages of “high-skilled workers.” But who will fill these high-skilled jobs when according to The Manufacturing Institute “half of the manufacturing workforce will turn over in the next decade as baby boomers retire?” Who will be there to innovate job-creating products?
Doug Mitchell, development engineer at Ford Motor Company Design and a member of the Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing Community (RTAM) of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, is concerned about the future.
“Not enough engineers are being trained in the United States. That’s one reason work is being outsourced,” he says.
Mitchell believes the shortage may have something to do with the perception that “manufacturing engineering is not considered a glamorous profession like law or medicine.”
He is working to change this by introducing young people to one of manufacturing’s “cool factors”: rapid or additive manufacturing, or the process of using 3D imaging and layered manufacturing to create physical objects. Mitchell should know. His work relies on this process to develop such auto components as instrument panels, grills, and other auto design features.
Outside of the office, he serves as a mentor in the Bright Minds Mentor Program, a program developed by the RTAM Education & Information Exchange Tech Group within SME. In its seventh year, Bright Minds pairs additive manufacturing industry mentors with high school students. This year, the program is being sponsored by the Boeing Company and OBJET Geometries. Bright Minds will take place as a part of SME’s RAPID 2010 and 3D IMAGING Conference and Exposition, May 18-20 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.
“Bright Minds is a good opportunity to get an idea of what engineers are doing,” Mitchell says.
Local students from Cypress, Kennedy, El Toro, Tustin and Trabuco Hills high schools will be introduced to prototyping, tooling and additive manufacturing industries as prospective career choices.
“I enjoy seeing the light bulb go on in students as they see some of what can be done with 3D imaging and additive manufacturing,” notes Mitchell. “Last year, we had kids see how the technology can be used to create a physical model of a World of Warcraft figure. They could also see how it can be used on the medical side.”
Beyond Bright Minds, the RAPID 2010 and 3D IMAGING Conference and Exposition also engage young people through the Design for DDM Student Design Competition. DDM is a manufacturing process which relies on building parts from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) files or data often used in rapid manufacturing.
Now through April 6, 2010, Bright Minds students and Bright Minds alumni, as well as entrants from various high schools and universities are invited to submit computer-aided design “inventions” based on the theme of “eco-friendly household products.” Previous competitions have encouraged students to submit innovations based on computer and automotive design.
Winners of this year’s competition will be announced at the RAPID 2010 and 3D IMAGING Conference.