Jenny Donaldson Votes for Manufacturing

The media often misses so much of what is really shaping our country and economy that it is almost a shock to read a piece that gets it right on every point.

Reporter Caitlin Gibson captured the story of Jenny Donaldson in the Washington Post magazine on Sunday, profiling this very enterprising young woman who is studying to be an engineer. “Engineering the Future” has a subtitle that tells it all: “Jenny Donaldson is at the vanguard of efforts by Montgomery College to help boost the number of engineers, especially among women and minorities.”

The story gets it so right because (1) we have a critical shortage of native born American engineers, (2) this is a field that is critical to the future of US manufacturing, (3) community colleges have moved into the forefront to educate young Americans with the skills that are rising in demand and (4) a key part of this strategy is to ink agreements with regular, four-year colleges who will accept the credit hours of students like Donaldson who want to go further with their education.

Jenny is a remarkable young woman, a 22-year old single mother with a two-year old toddler. She graduated from high school a few years ago with a 3.8 GPA and a love of science and with courses in physics and calculus under her belt. Like so many high schoolers, she was encouraged to go right away to a four-year college, with apparently little career guidance. So she followed the pack to a four year college, but she left after three semesters. Like a third of all students entering four-year colleges, she dropped out. Jenny is finding a way around this non-system that we call higher ed.

Her dream is to design and build spacecraft! You can’t have a much more ambitious dream than that and she has the interest and skills to get there. After all, 45 percent of all professional engineers now begin their education at a community college. Kudos to the US Department of Education for nurturing this process with a grant to Montgomery College to increase the number of women and minorities pursuing such degrees. If all the foreign students being trained as engineers left for opportunities back home, we’d be faced with an unprecedented shortage of engineers that would bode poorly for the future competitiveness of US industry.

We need to change attitudes toward engineering and manufacturing and community colleges and capture the talented young people like Donaldson and her classmates. The Institute’s Dream It. Do It. campaign is helping do that too. Check it out at here.

To read the full story about Jenny Donaldson, click here.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Gary Johnson says:

    What a great story ! Here at ACE Clearwater we have learned first hand how few and far between young manufacturing engineers are. I believe it is in the best interest of industry to do all we can to help some of the community colleges nurture young people who are interested in a high paying career in manufacturing engineering. Whether it be donating equipment, sending key employees into the classrooms to talk about what they do and why they do it, or even letting their shop floors be used for real world experience, we must help every way we can. Paid summer internships are pretty good as well, sort of a 90 day interview ! Very encouraged to read this story, now let’s do all we can to multiply this one by thousands ! You go girl.

  • Serge says:

    There is no shortage of engineers.Otherwise salaries should be climbing very fast and this is not the case.
    Tom Friedman has just accepted that the problem is not shortages but the whole society lack of appreciation for the work of engineeers.
    While a Ph.D graduate from a top engineering program makes around 65K a year, an MBA from the same similar type of institution makes over 100K.
    THERE IS NO SHORTAGE – there is a shortage of people willing to study hard, work hard not to make more than 80K at the top of their earning years.

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