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Manufacturing is the engine that made America prosperous.

Modern manufacturing will play a pivotal role in our long-term economic vitality.

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STEM Education

Mary Andringa of Vermeer Industries: Emphasizing STEM Education

  • April 15, 2015

Even as President and CEO of a global company, Vermeer Industries, Mary Andringa has never lost sight of her early-career roots as a teacher. She is a longtime, passionate advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, which prepares young people for promising and rewarding careers. Fortune magazine named her to the STEMconnector® List of 100 CEO Leaders in STEM in 2013.

Moreover, it’s never too early to begin orienting young people to STEM disciplines. Vermeer, along with Bright Horizons, has established an academy called the Yellow Iron Academy in Pella, Iowa. It is one of five schools to receive the inaugural seal of approval from the STEM Advisory Council to the Governor of Iowa.

The academy won the awards for their Math Counts and Science Rocks programs. It serves 112 children, from pre-school to school-age. Parents are very excited about Yellow Iron Academy’s creative approach to early STEM education.  

The reference to “Yellow Iron” reflects the branded colors of the equipment made by Vermeer. The privately held company manufactures equipment that serves the agriculture, biomass, wood-waste recycling, landscaping, surface mining, and utility installation industries. This equipment serves a variety of industries, but shares one thing in common: It helps people perform important work more efficiently and safely.

By selling this equipment to global markets, Vermeer helps local leaders and businesses around the world improve the quality of life for populations who then benefit from lower food prices, improvements in electricity service reliability, or more affordable forms of clean energy in their home communities.   

Vermeer is rightly proud of the work that its employees do. A case in point came in early 2015 when Vermeer was selected for the International Mining Hall of Fame for the surface-mining technologies developed by the company’s engineers. Vermeer makes a machine, introduced in 2002, called the Terrain Leveler ® that uses an industry-exclusive tilting cover drum so as to eliminate the need for primary crushers, large loaders, and huge mining haul trucks. Given the efficiencies it provides, the award-winning machine is still in widespread use today. And it’s an example of the type of technology that can be developed by those with backgrounds in the STEM disciplines.

Vermeer is also a leader in the implementation of lean manufacturing. It has been a long-term company focus that started at the top, and has engaged all levels of the organization, with positive results.

In December 2015, Mary turns over the President and CEO reins to her son, Jason. But there are no coronations based on blood lines at Vermeer. Executives are held to strict performance goals and evaluations, which figure heavily into any advancement decisions. Meanwhile, Mary, who is a past Chair of the National Association of Manufacturers, will continue to advocate for STEM education and other causes important to manufacturing.

Raytheon: Encouraging STEM Education through Multiple Channels

  • December 26, 2013

Today’s college, secondary, and primary education students constitute tomorrow’s workforce. When those students seek to enter the permanent workforce, many positions, especially in modern manufacturing, will require them to have an academic background in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Many manufacturers already struggle to find applicants with the right skills, a problem that could get worse over time. The 2013 Program for International Student Assessment found students in the U.S. scored 26th in math, 21st in science, and 19th in reading, among the 34 developed economies. The findings, published each year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, show the U.S. is not making progress. Moreover, a 2011 Harris Interactive survey found that while half of all parents want their children to pursue career in STEM fields, only 24% were willing to invest money to help them succeed in science and math classes.

Given the magnitude of this concern, it is not surprising that manufacturers are taking action. One of the leaders is Raytheon, the respected provider of mission systems integration, and advanced capabilities in sensing, effects, and command, control, communications, and intelligence systems. The Masssachusetts-based firm seeks to engage and inspire students while they’re young, and support them in their formative years. Raytheon’s MathMovesU program uses an interactive web site, scholarships, and event sponsorships to help prepare students, from middle school age through college, for the U.S. workforce.

Furthermore, Raytheon and the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) have produced the first-ever simulation and modeling tool for the STEM education system. This useful tool allows researchers, government policymakers, and educators to explore policy scenarios that can strengthen STEM education and workforce outcomes. The National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education chose the model for a 2012 Leveraging Excellence Award.

Raytheon even uses football to stimulate interest in STEM. At Patriot Place, home of the New England Patriots football team, the company sponsors entertaining interactive games and exhibits that highlight numbers and football. Thousands of students participate in these games and exercises each year.

Many other companies are also involved in encouraging STEM education. Considering the stakes, the efforts of Raytheon and these other manufacturers are an important of the manufacturing landscape today.