Chairman up Bishop-Wisecarverleveraging over 70 years of success to deliver innovative motion solutions to customers around the world.
Many have discussed that of the US projected shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) talent, and this is a problem for so many companies – mine included – that need skilled people to effectively run many parts of our business. In some ways, my company has it even harder than most others because we’re a 70-plus-year-old Northern California manufacturing company competing for talent with Silicon Valley technology giants.
But what makes things more challenging also gives us an advantage since we’ve been in the same community for decades. People know us. We know them. Together we work towards a stronger society. While there are many strategies companies use to develop and attract their own STEM talent, community involvement is one way we believe is successful. Not only can it help fill the pipeline, but it can also have a significant positive impact on the local community where you live and work. It creates a win-win scenario for everyone and is something that even the smallest companies can do.
Getting involved in your community starts with developing a family culture in your company. Concentrate on creating shared value that gives the company a competitive advantage while strengthening the communities in which you operate. For my company, being active with our local high schools and community colleges and supporting STEM programs that celebrate a diverse group of students have always been priorities.
Diversity in STEM
STEM programs are important in fostering a love of STEM in all young minds while helping them on their path to success in their future careers in engineering and manufacturing. But it’s even more pressing for women, especially in traditionally male-dominated industries like manufacturing. Although women make up about 47% of the total civilian population aged 16 and over in the US, they only make about 30% percent of the 15.8 million people employed in manufacturing. According to a report by Thomas Insights and Women in Manufacturing, only 1 in 4 production managers are women.
STEM programs aimed at women can make a significant difference in their lives. I’ve seen this firsthand when they look at me and say I’m the only female business president they’ve ever met. By participating, you can put these kinds of dreams and aspirations into the minds of young girls from a young age, which they can carry through school and beyond.
Choosing STEM initiatives
The first step in selecting the right STEM initiatives to support is looking at your company’s overall vision and purpose. In my company, our vision is to improve the world through diversity in mechatronics. We are aligning all of our community and non-profit partnerships to support this goal and remain on track to make our vision a reality.
Once this focus is in place, I encourage business leaders to consider three key options when selecting STEM initiatives that require their company to invest time, money, and effort:
1. Sponsor a mix of national and regional STEM programs
National programs are well organized, and many include sponsorship benefits for marketing and networking with companies and students (prospective employees). Because these programs tend to be larger than local initiatives, they often involve multiple industries, providing wider networking opportunities and more opportunities for students to learn about a variety of industries (like yours). Similarly, regional events are also very valuable as they can provide companies with the opportunity to work directly with local students, teachers and families. The opportunity to make a positive impact in your own community, which often includes helping families of your own employees, can make a big difference in how your staff perceives your business and can encourage the bright minds in your community to work for your company in the future.
2. Finding the balance between general STEM programs and programs related to your industry
The advantage of working with programs related to your industry is that you can provide so much practical information specific to your field, which will help participants better understand what working in your industry is really like. These specialized events can give your company access to a pipeline of prospective employees who are already interested in joining a company in your industry. Likewise, general STEM programs not related to your industry can also be helpful. For example, there are many initiatives aimed solely at increasing the number of women entering STEM fields. By partnering with these organizations, you can not only help guide and nurture the love of STEM among the participants, but you can also encourage more women to join your industry, or even better, your company .
3. Create your own STEM initiative
While there are so many opportunities to participate in, that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own. Although we participate in many activities at both national and local levels in my company, we also decided to launch a design competition to give local students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the manufacturing industry. We are now in our third year of sponsoring and hosting this contest, offering a challenge related to our industry and participating high school students apply their design expertise and innovation to solve that challenge. Events like these can provide students with valuable hands-on experience and can light a fire under their feet by showing them what they can achieve in their lives.
A win-win situation for everyone
Community involvement has so many benefits inside and outside the company – from filling the talent pipeline to helping students find a STEM job and helping young women gain the confidence to pursue a STEM career pursue. Helping students in our communities has brought nothing but positive results for my business, and I encourage all leaders to start investing locally. The results can be a win-win situation for everyone.