The Engineering Skills Gap and How Colleges are Fixing It

by Modis on June 20, 2017

resolving the skills gap with engineering educationThe engineering skills gap has long been a hot topic across the industry. There have been many different strategies employed to try to attract young people back to the profession.

Businesses need more students to take STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as the number of jobs needing these core skills are predicted to grow by 17% by 2024.

Drilling even deeper into the skills gaps, there is a particular need for people to qualify in finite element analysis, embedded software engineering and all areas of energy.

A 2014 report from the World Economic Forum’s Matching Skills and Labor Market Needs, recommended that its G20 members develop strategies for “improving the quality of education and training and its responsiveness to labor market needs” and that there should be a “closer integration of education and work.”

How have colleges and institutions responded to this to ensure that students are being taught the skills that will fill the gaps?

New Approaches to Education

The National Math & Science Initiative’s College Readiness Program is run in high schools to get them interested in STEM careers, including a college readiness program. Results show that it is increasing both AP test taking and qualifying score earning for all students. A step in the right direction to fill the skills gap, but what about adult learners who are already working and need retraining to meet the changing needs of the labor market?

According to Forbes’s list of the Top 21 STEM Colleges in the US, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the best school for these subjects. Beyond its world-famous undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses, it has a dedicated online education service designed to meet the needs of businesses so people can be lifelong learners.

The Advanced Study Program enables professionals in engineering and technical fields to learn at MIT as Fellows. They can then take new knowledge, skills, and innovative ideas and practices back to work with them. MIT also offers the Custom Program, which is designed to meet the specific training needs a business has identified. Students can attend for just a single day or take part in a year-long study program, on or off campus.

John Hopkins University has also been focused on developing an evolving program that meets the changing needs of business and society since 1961. The latest step on that journey was to establish a new business school dedicated to producing innovative leaders with broad, interdisciplinary knowledge. Named the Carey Business School after the benefactor that left the legacy that enabled it to be created, it is focused on teaching different elements of business and management with humanity in mind.

The Colorado School of Mines is also on the list. This public research university is focused on teaching engineering and applied science through a curriculum that is focused on environmental sustainability and responsible natural resource management. It, too, has a dedicated corporate education program that included long and short courses focused on energy, mining and construction.

Meeting Future Demand

Despite these new approaches to education to meet the specific needs of businesses in the US and plug the skills gap, news from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more needs to be done. The existing workforce is aging and the number of jobs that need filling is growing.

A report from global economic research organization, Conference Board reinforces this as it documents emerging labor shortages across the country in many different industries. It also keeps a running tally of the number of jobs being advertised online; in May 2017 it increased by 195,600. Schools, colleges and businesses need to work more closely together to find innovative ways to attract people to courses and jobs in order to fill the widening skills gap.

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