Skilled Trades are STEM Careers

The Imagine America Foundation was excited to present a webinar with Dr. Steve Coyle of Universal Technical Institute (UTI) recently. We know that the workforce is changing, and Dr. Coyle shared with us (and a great group of high school counselors) just how much that’s true.

According to a 2016 survey led by Exploring, a co-ed career development program, 150,000 6th through 12th graders were surveyed about their interest in more than 200 different career options. The data showed that 3 percent of the students said they were interested in “skilled trades.” But 45 percent of those same students said they were interested in “STEM.” What we have here is a problem of perception!

“Skilled trades” in the auto industry are STEM careers. As Dr. Coyle pointed out, STEM isn’t just for engineers or for rocket scientists: people who work on cars, people who work in skilled trades, are using these principles too.

Gone are the days of the auto mechanic covered in grease and sorting through an assortment of wrenches. Today’s auto technicians are skilled in not just the mechanics of automotive vehicles, but also the computerized and technical components that help keep them running. Today’s vehicles have up to 100 million lines of code: they’re literally rolling computers. And as we progress toward innovations like automation for driverless technology, we’re going to need workers who are trained to keep up with those types of changes.

STEM careers combine all four components (science, technology, engineering, mechanics) in a problem-solving environment. And if that doesn’t describe an automotive technician’s role, we don’t know what does. From understanding functionality and identifying issues to creating solutions and testing fixes, auto techs are employing STEM skills every day they’re on the job.

Do you have students who might be ready to pursue an automotive technician career training program? IAF has a robust database of schools, including UTI, to help them find the right program for them. We’ve also developed countless resources to support students along the way, from scholarship and award programs to help finding an apartment and creating their first budget. We can’t wait to help them get on the path to a new career!