The United States is now facing its most serious shortage of workers skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics since the 1950s. Mindful that a foundation for the future must be put in place today, SME, a nonprofit organization that advances manufacturing, handed out nearly 600 educational toys to children in the Detroit area this holiday season.
In a national survey of more than 4,000 scientists and graduate students in the fields of chemistry and physics, researchers found that 70% reported they had become interested in science before high school.
“We need to engage children sooner and in more robust ways. We cannot count on school alone,” said Dennis Bray, SME 2013 president. “Playtime, in fact, offers an ideal opportunity to encourage kids to have fun with concepts related to STEM. Promoting early connections is vital to later educational and vocational interest in the manufacturing field.”
SME’s educational toy donation also aims to address a shortage of women in the traditionally male-dominated field. Currently, women make up less than 25% of the U.S. manufacturing industry workforce, 11% of executive officers in manufacturing and only 2% of CEOs.
“Toys, including those we are donating from educational toy leader Fat Brain Toys, make science-based learning exciting and entertaining for both boys and girls,” added Bray. “From teachers and students, to parents and organizations such as SME, we all need to put maximum effort toward developing a pipeline of 21st-century workers who know how to make things.”
The toys will also direct children to the ManufacturingIsCool.com website to further explore the importance of making things. This site is sponsored by the SME Educational Foundation which provides grants and scholarships to inspire, prepare and support children’s interest in STEM fields.