October is manufacturing month here in Arizona, which provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about what it takes to meet our state’s manufacturing needs. By 2018, 42 percent of jobs in manufacturing will require some postsecondary education or degree according to findings from the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce. And, a 2012 Manpower Group study indicates that engineers and machine operators are among the top 10 jobs that U.S. employers have trouble filling.

These statistics should motivate us as educators to equip students with skills necessary to be successful in a variety of career fields, including manufacturing. As most now know, manufacturing has changed drastically over the last 50 years. Today’s manufacturing is advanced and high tech. It demands heavy math and science learning and may also require specialized technical training.

To meet the employer needs of Arizona’s manufacturing sector, it is critical that students have access to rigorous STEM coursework and be made aware of available apprenticeships and technical college programs. Sharing about the exciting careers available in manufacturing doesn’t hurt either. Showing students the high quality career paths that exist in the field of manufacturing will better align the image of manufacturing with its exciting reality.

The good news is many Arizona schools recognize the importance of equipping students through a STEM focus in the classroom. Schools like Western School of Science & TechnologySonoran Schools, and Academies of Math & Science are already filling the pipeline with the next generation of makers and innovators.

To say manufacturing plays an important role in our state economy is an understatement. More than 4,000 Arizona manufacturers combine to produce approximately $24 million in annual manufacturing output. To sustain that critical economic driver, we must ready Arizona students for these high skill careers.

The Arizona Manufacturers Council celebrates manufacturing month and recognizes outstanding manufacturers for their contributions at its annual Arizona Manufacturing Summit and Awards Lunch on October 30th at the Arizona Biltmore. For more information, click here.