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From the Desk of Jack Healy

What is the Future of Manufacturing? Where Will Manufacturing Be in 20 Years?

By Kathie Mahoney, Events Marketing Manager, MassMEP, [email protected]

These are the questions that we hear on a regular basis within the manufacturing community. In order to begin answering these questions, we first must look at our educational systems and determine what they are doing within their curriculum to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The students in grade school now are the future workforce who will be making decisions about manufacturing within the next 20 years. Of course, this assumes they chose to enter into a career in STEM related industries. 

In 2006, there were 59,529 Massachusetts’ students who took the SATs according to the College Board. A report by John Hodgman, Howard P. Foley Professor for High Tech Workforce Development, UMASS-Lowell College of Engineering, reports the following data for six Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) areas of study in which these students plan to major, and compares these with nationwide data from SAT test takers:




Areas of Study

% of SAT Test Takers

% of SAT Test Takers

Biological Sciences



Computer or IT






Health & Allied Services






Physical Sciences






As you can see by these numbers, Massachusetts is behind across the board in STEM areas as compared with nationwide results. 

Funding STEM Research and Education
Our federal and state governments have had the foresight to see the need for keeping manufacturing jobs within the United States and have provided funding opportunities to support their beliefs. In support of promoting careers within STEM-based industries, the National Science Foundation is funding STEM research and education, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has created a STEM Pipeline Fund and promotes an annual conference on STEM initiatives each October. Recently, the MassMEP and the National Council for Advanced Manufacturing (NACFAM) entered into a partnership to sponsor a STEM Symposium coming up on December 3, 2007.

The STEM Pipeline Fund was established in 2004 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Legislature and Governor with three key objectives:

  1. Increase the number of students choosing to prepare in STEM fields,
  2. Increase the number of qualified STEM teachers, and
  3. Improve the knowledge, skill, and performance of all students in mathematics and science. 

In 2006, an additional $4 million was approved for the STEM Pipeline Fund by the Legislature and Governor. In addition, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has begun to award grants to fund programs that address the three objects set by the STEM Pipeline Fund. 

These are all innovative initiatives and a necessity if we are to be competitive in the global economy. In a February 2007 report released by the New England Council, full report attached, in 2005, only 20.2% of high school students taking the SATs in New England indicated a desire to major in a STEM field. New England’s rate is below the national average of 26.3% and significantly below North Carolina’s – a major competitor of the New England states – where 33% of the SAT test takers indicated a desire to major in a STEM field. While these percentages increased slightly in 2006, New England is still behind the national average. 

How do we address this lack of interest in STEM fields?

Several organizations across the state are working towards building an awareness of the need of additional training and curriculum changes with the STEM areas of study. 

MassMEP is working with regional resources to promote STEM and hosting a STEM Symposium on December 3, 2007. We are honored that Congressman James McGovern is supporting the event. Watch for additional details in this newsletter. 

The Central Mass STEM Pipeline is working on the following as part of their funding. If you are interested in learning more about these programs, please contact the Regional Science Resource Center at [email protected].

Central PreK-16 Regional Network: Project Details, Assessing and Addressing Physical Science Misconceptions
The three-year project will address science in grades 3-8 and will focus on what the 2006 science MCAS, as well as other district data, revealed as weak areas of the curriculum. A Network team of 6-8 science and education experts from higher education, professional development organizations, and K-12 will develop a 5-day, 37.5 hr course for 60 teachers (30 in a 3-5 grade cadre and 30 in a 6-8 grade cadre) with 2 follow up days during the school year. The identified weak learning standards will be aligned with known science misconceptions, and those specific conceptual areas will be the content focus for the course. The course will focus on:

  • Raising awareness of the pervasiveness and strength of misconceptions (Private Universe tapes from Annenberg on student misconceptions)
  • Using and interpreting formative assessments for identifying science misconceptions (developed by the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance)
  • Learning and practicing instructional strategies and activities to help students dispel misconceptions
  • Deepening and strengthening teacher content knowledge on the specific physical science concepts underlying science misconceptions

In year one, the districts involved in the Coordinating Council — Fitchburg (4 schools), Leominster (4 schools), Lunenburg (2 schools), Northbridge (2 schools), Shrewsbury (3 schools), and Worcester (8 schools) — will become the first tier of eligible districts to send teams of 2-3 teachers per school to the STEM Institute, Assessing and Addressing Physical Science Misconceptions. The second eligible tier includes all Network partners followed by any Central MA district until the summer course is filled. In years two and three, the second tier districts will have the first opportunity, followed by additional teachers from first tier schools.

Assessing STEM from the Ground Up
The Central MA STEM Pipeline Network is composed of three structural entities: Advisory Board, Coordinating Council, and Partners. As a result of conversations with business representatives, the Advisory Board, and the Coordinating Council, three areas of common interest emerged as important, yet have not been fully addressed in other regional forums. These three areas will be addressed through three Work Groups that will be convened by the Advisory Board to research, study, make recommendations, and oversee implementation (as funding is available). The three Work Groups are as follows:

  • Pre-Service Work Group:  Connect pre-service with K-12 schools more effectively
  • Teacher Leadership Work Group:  Develop a plan to develop STEM Teacher Leaders
  • Business/Education Support Work Group:  Develop innovative ways for business to support education

The timeline for Work Groups will be the following:

  • Year One: Define issue (goals and objectives of Work Group), research, analyze options, and delineate a strategic plan to address issue
  • Year Two: Implement pilot
  • Year Three: Evaluate, readjust, and extend pilot, or move in another direction

Each Work Group will be composed of members of the Network, inter-regional stakeholders, and outside experts as needed and will meet quarterly prior to each Advisory Board meeting. The Work Groups will present to the Advisory Board for feedback and decision-making.

These two programs are examples of how we are working towards promoting STEM within the K-12 grades. Please contact Kathie Mahoney at [email protected] to learn more about the STEM Symposium.


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