Skills Gap? The Number of Students Studying Computer Science Is Surging Amid A Shortage of Teachers

By January 30, 2019Shopfloor Main
Manufacturing workers using computer science to analyze data

Job creation in the modern manufacturing industry is surging. Manufacturers added 284,000 new jobs last year, the biggest growth the industry has seen since 1997. These new jobs are increasingly requiring advanced digital and technical skillsets as modern manufacturing continues to innovate and build America’s future.

Unfortunately, employers are struggling to find enough workers with the right set of skills to fill those jobs. Nearly half a million open manufacturing jobs remain empty due to this “skills gap,” and as our 2018 Skills Gap Study found, that number is expected to swell to 2.4 million within the next decade.

That’s why our work at the Manufacturing Institute to help train and inspire the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow is so critical.

There’s some encouraging news on the horizon. A new report from the New York Times details a surge in the number of undergraduates pursuing education in computer science. According to the report, the number of students majoring in computer science more than doubled from 2013 to 2017 as young students are increasingly embracing technical and digital education as an opportunity for lucrative and rewarding career paths:

Economics and the promise of upward mobility are driving the student stampede. While previous generations of entrepreneurial undergraduates might have aspired to become lawyers or doctors, many students now are leery of investing the time, and incurring six-figure debts, to join those professions.

By contrast, learning computing skills can be a fast path to employment, as fields as varied as agriculture, banking and genomics incorporate more sophisticated computing. While the quality of programs across the country varies widely, some computer science majors make six-figure salaries straight out of school.

This surge in computer science education is a hopeful sign for an industry that is increasingly relying on digital and technical skillsets to manufacture the innovative products Americans consume everyday. Unfortunately, the NYT report also points out that a shortage of qualified teachers is inhibiting access for many interested students, including women and minorities. Inspiring students to pursue skilled educational opportunities is only half the battle. As the report makes clear, making further investments in these types of programs to open access must be a part of the solution to closing the skills gap and solving the workforce crisis.

Manufacturers across the country are stepping up. Companies like United Technologies, GE Appliances, and Boeing have all made game-changing investments in workforce training programs. Meanwhile, our team at the Manufacturing Institute is tackling these challenges through solutions-driven programs like STEP Ahead, Heroes MAKE America, and Manufacturing Day.

Building a workforce of the future is a requirement if we’re going to sustain the growth trend in U.S. manufacturing. That means arming students with the right skills they need and keeping the manufacturing talent pipeline open.

Carolyn Lee

Carolyn Lee

Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute at The Manufacturing Institute
Carolyn Lee is Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute, the non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the nation’s largest industrial trade association. Carolyn drives an agenda focused on improving the manufacturing industry through its three centers: the Center for the American Workforce, the Center for Manufacturing Research, and the Center for Best Practices.

In her role, Carolyn leads the Institute’s workforce efforts to close the skills gap and inspire all Americans to enter the U.S. manufacturing workforce, focusing on women, youth, and veterans. Carolyn steers the Institute’s initiatives and programs to educate the public on manufacturing careers, improve the quality of manufacturing education, engage, develop and retain key members of the workforce, and identify and document best practices. In addition, Carolyn drives the agenda for the Center for Manufacturing Research, which partners with leading consulting firms in the country. The Institute studies the critical issues facing manufacturing and then applies that research to develop and identify solutions that are implemented by companies, schools, governments, and organizations across the country.

Prior to joining the Institute, Carolyn was Senior Director of Tax Policy at the NAM beginning in 2011, where she was responsible for key portions of the NAM’s tax portfolio representing the manufacturing community on Capitol Hill and in the business community and working closely with the NAM membership. She served as the Director of Legislative and Government Affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association, Manager of State and Federal Government Affairs for 3M Company, and in various positions on Capitol Hill including as Legislative Director for former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and as a senior legislative staff member for former U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY).

Carolyn is a graduate of Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania graduating with a B.A. in Political Science. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband and three children.
Carolyn Lee

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