By Sara Feuling, AEM Director of Construction

STEMIt’s no secret workforce development is a top priority for AEM and those of us in the equipment manufacturing industry. The scarcity of skilled workers is one of the greatest challenges facing us today, and addressing it is critical to ensuring a bright future for our industry.

As a young, female engineer within the construction industry, I have a unique perspective, one which I’m always willing to share in hopes that it'll inspire someone to take a harder look at the benefits a career in the skilled trades has to offer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Opportunities to promote our industry to our future workforce are out there. It’s up to you to take advantage of them.

It’s a fact that remains top-of-mind for me in the volunteer work I do with STEM Forward and other local organizations. My involvement with those groups recently afforded me the opportunity to connect with Boy Scouts of America – Three Harbors Council and participate in last month’s Cub Scout STEM Fair and Expo at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Cub ScoutsApproximately 120 scouts, in grades K-5, spent several hours working their way through educational sessions and stations, including my station – “Building Bridges with Civil Engineering.

Scouts built bridges out of marshmallows and spaghetti, and they tested the strength of their structures, making improvements along the way as I highlighted basic engineering and construction principles. Through a simple hands-on activity, the scouts were able to problem-solve and develop solutions to strengthen the structures, one of the qualities necessary for sustained success in engineering.

A session led by Case IH – “Case IH Harvesters: Testing for Toughness” – gave scouts the chance to play the role of a product test engineer and replicate a real durability test. The AEM member company also explained how combine harvesters work and the importance of their durability (not only to the farmers that own them, but also to each and every one of us who benefits from them).

Case IH was able to fully engage the scouts in agriculture, explaining where their food comes from and showcasing the important role STEM plays in this industry. Several of the den leaders were very impressed with the hands-on activity, which made a somewhat complex subject easier to understand for the scouts.

Both Case IH and I have been invited to participate in future Three Harbors Council events. Being involved in these uniquely valuable opportunities allows us to connect with scouts that may not have been exposed to our industry and help them realize the impact those of us in construction, agriculture, and manufacturing have on their daily lives. While these events may only reach a small number of local scouts, they serve as stepping stones to our future workforce.

Our industry will continue to evolve with time. As a result, it is critical for organizations and individuals to connect with the workforce of tomorrow, inspiring them to consider a career in this industry and – perhaps most importantly – helping them realize their potential to be successful in the trades.

In addition to the local opportunities we can each take advantage of, AEM has launched several workforce initiatives for 2020, including a Workforce Solutions Area at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020. For more information, visit https://www.aem.org/workforce-development-solutions/. 

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