By Bob Sobolewski, President and CEO at ebm-papst USA
Two weeks ago, after CBIA’s Business Day at the Capitol, Don Beckwith posted here about the challenges that Connecticut manufacturers have in attracting new employees. While cost of living and wages have a big impact on our efforts to remain competitive, there’s another piece of the puzzle that’s equally important: helping new generations become adept, capable and confident employees of the future.
Our state’s business community has a responsibility to enhance our children’s education in ways that build their critical thinking and technical skills. We can help them aspire to be team members and leaders, regardless of the professions they choose, by showing them what we do every day and helping them visualize themselves within our companies.
In 1989, ebm-papst Inc. began its journey to support a fledgling organization called FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Founded by inventor Dean Kaman, FIRST is now an international program that inspires nearly 300,000 young people from kindergarten to 12th grade to get involved with science, engineering, math and technology and helps them develop self-confidence, teamwork and leadership skills. ebm-papst began to supply our air-moving products to FIRST competitions, as well as engineering expertise and manufacturing support to teams. That support continues to this day.
Being involved in FIRST is a labor of love…and belief. Just ask Electrical Engineering Manager Hogan Eng, who devotes nights and weekends to helping Woodbury’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team #2836, Team Beta. Or Operations Manager Bill Aston, who has mentored Farminton’s FRC Team #178, the 2nd Law Enforcers, for nine years. Or everyone in the company who has gone the extra mile to help manufacture parts for these teams’ robots and support their transportation, logistics and community outreach efforts.
Are our efforts working?
Brandeis University recently surveyed young people in FIRST Robotics Competitions around the country and compared them to a group of non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences, including math and science. The survey revealed that FIRST students are:
More than three times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post-graduate degree.
More than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology.
Nearly four times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.
More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.
Connecticut FIRST’s big event – the FIRST Robotics Competition Northeast Utilities Connecticut Regionals – will take place Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31 at the Connecticut Convention Center. This year’s regionals will bring more than 2400 high school students on 64 elite robot teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Texas who both compete and cooperate in this year’s game, Rebound Rumble. The event is free and open to the public.
If you’ve already been to Connecticut’s FIRST Regional robotics competition, you know how exciting and inspiring they are. If you haven’t, I invite you to bring your children, your neighbors’ children and their teachers. We’re going to have a blast!