Reaching young engineers early

Since I was called on to help create Putman Media’s new Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce podcast, I’ve been learning an awful lot about the engineering workforce, and some of the steps that can be taken to solve not only our current workforce issues, but also help prevent future issues.

One way that some are trying to help ensure that future industry does not face the same workforce issues that we’re facing now is by attracting young people to the field early. Although STEM programming may play a role, opening the lines of communication between professional and potential engineers is essential. If you ask me, the best way to learn is to talk to those who are most passionate and currently in the field.

Having lived in Will County since 1999, I’ve resided only about 20 minutes away from Joliet Junior College (JJC) for the majority of my life. However, it wasn’t until I began working on CONTROL just more than a year ago that I learned that JJC has a notable engineering program and that our local ISA chapter, ISA Will-DuPage, plays a significant role in this space.

However, it seems like that’s changing for today’s young people in my area, as ISA opens the lines of communication between its members and the young people in the southern suburbs of Chicago.

On Friday, April 5, ISA Will-DuPage members and friends volunteered their time to judge JJC’s 18th annual robotics competition for area high schools. This year was ISA’s third sponsoring and volunteering as judges for the competition, according to David Riojas, ISA Will-DuPage Section past president and education chair.

While members and friends of ISA volunteered as judges in the competition, Riojas staffed an ISA booth and showed the high school students, several of whom weren’t sure what career path they wanted to pursue, physical equipment he had on-hand. Riojas also explained to the students how they’d be able to put their personal passions to use with a career in automation.

The students who participate in events like JJC’s robotics competition are ideal candidates to enter ISA’s joint program with JJC and pursue an automation career, Riojas says. “They have that natural curiosity.”

An encouraging sight for the future workforce, there were nearly 200 high school students from almost a dozen area high schools present at Friday’s competition, giving Riojas a large group of students on which he could make an impression, and potentially be a source of inspiration.

It’s great to see organizations like ISA taking a step out and communicating with future engineers to attract them now. Like I always tell my colleagues, if we get the millennials, the generation Zer’s and the generations to follow while they’re young, we’ll have them forever.