Posts Tagged ‘STEM’


Celebrating Manufacturing Day in Pella, Iowa

October 12, 2016
Jason Andringa, President & CEO at Vermeer Corporation

Jason Andringa, President & CEO at Vermeer Corporation

Guest blog post by Jason Andringa, President & CEO at Vermeer Corporation

Throughout the year nearly 3,000 Vermeer team members work diligently to build impressive equipment that serves ten different markets. Our engineering team works hard to concept and design equipment; our manufacturing team machines, welds, paints and assembles the tough equipment we sell. Our support teams procure parts, integrate technology solutions, market the equipment and build relationships with customers and dealers on six continents. In order to experience ongoing success as a growing global company, we must continue to recruit, develop and build teams that can keep pace with our customer needs.

Numbers prove that a STEM-skilled workforce is essential to the future of manufacturing and our world. Every dollar spent in manufacturing adds $1.37 to the US economy, and every 100 jobs in a manufacturing facility create an additional 250 jobs in other sectors. Yet 80 percent of manufacturers report difficulty in finding skilled workers. Manufacturing clearly has an impact on the nation’s economy. So the skills gap we are facing in our industry has to be addressed in order to achieve a healthy workforce, and is sure to be reflective of the significant need throughout the nation.

Our annual Manufacturing Day event at the Vermeer headquarters in Pella, Iowa has proven to have some of the most positive, immediate results in shifting the manufacturing perception. We invite local middle and high school students inside our doors and break down the myth that manufacturing means a dirty job.

Through hands-on activities and plant tours, students get to dig into all the facets of manufacturing. Paint and weld simulators offer an opportunity to try it out. 3D printing, digital assembly and robotics activities show students manufacturing isn’t an outdated assembly line, but rather a smartly progressive field maximizing science and technology. Finance and marketing activities have students calculate exchange rates and see that manufacturing isn’t limited to a factory, but instead is connected around the globe.

We’re once again preparing to give students an up-close look at what manufacturing is all about. Why? Students, and their influencers, want it. An Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council survey shows that 94 percent of Iowans think STEM education should be a priority in their local school districts. Our Manufacturing Day experience reflects that. Attendance jumped from 100 students to 700+ in just three years.

We also make it a point to survey the students before and after their visit, and are very motivated by the results: The percentage of students who felt they understood what manufacturing is, jumped from 57 percent before Manufacturing Day to 97 percent after, and those who want to work in manufacturing someday jumped from 34 percent to 69 percent. With the majority of students saying that personal experience directs them down a particular career path, we want Manufacturing Day to be one experience that launches them on a STEM journey toward manufacturing!

The future is bright for Vermeer, and when we open on our doors on October 14 for Manufacturing Day, we stand with pride to be a manufacturer and future employer to some of these students who will leave inspired to pursue a career in manufacturing.


American-Made Chemicals Reach TPP Markets

April 7, 2016

John Meakem is an International Trade Specialist with the Office of Materials Industries

When we hear the word ‘chemicals’, we often imagine a science lab, flasks, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. But did you know that chemicals are used to produce everyday household items such as cosmetics, paints, plastic products, and fertilizers?

It’s no surprise, then, to know that the United States has a bustling chemicals industry that in 2014 had $160 billion in exports and employed 1.2 million workers. Many countries rely on U.S. exports of these chemicals to help meet their everyday needs.


In 2014, the U.S. chemicals industry employed 1.2 million workers.

In fact, from 2009 to 2014, U.S. chemical exports to the world grew by 44 percent – and this supports the growth of jobs here in the United States as well. It’s estimated that STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) jobs are poised to grow by 8.65 million by 2018; many of them will be in the chemicals sector and will be critical in supporting the development of U.S.-made chemical products.

But there is a cost to doing business abroad. Without the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in place, these products have been subject to tariffs of up to 35 percent in some TPP countries.  Worldwide, an estimated $236 million in duties are levied on U.S. exports of chemicals every year.

However, once enacted, the TPP will create duty-free access to new TPP markets, thus leveling the playing field for domestic-made chemicals and the chemical industry’s workers. Japan, for example, will eliminate import taxes on all U.S. chemical products immediately. And within four years, growing markets such as Malaysia and Vietnam will end upwards of 93% percent of their duties on U.S. chemicals exports as well.

With respect to plastics, the TPP countries represent a significant market for highly-competitive U.S. products. Under the TPP, tariffs of as high as 25 percent will be eliminated, and U.S. plastics producers will enjoy reciprocal market access to all the other economies. To give two examples: Japan will immediately eliminate all tariffs on U.S. plastics, and Vietnam will eliminate nearly all of its tariffs on plastics within four years.

The TPP addresses high foreign tariffs for many every-day use items (e.g., cosmetics, soap, shampoo, deodorant), as well.  For example, Vietnam’s duties on U.S.-made cosmetics, which have been as high as 27 percent, will be eliminated within four years after implementation.

ITA’s Industry & Analysis team understands the importance of this historic agreement and is ready to assist businesses that are looking to take advantage of the new possibilities. We have created a detailed fact sheet on what U.S. chemical exporters can look forward to once the agreement is passed.


Science Without Borders: Brazil is Building the Future by Encouraging Students to Study Abroad

September 5, 2012

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Cory Churches is an Outreach and Communications Specialist in the Office of Public Affairs within the International Trade Administration

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is making advanced education for future workers a high priority. In 2011, she launched the Science Without Borders initiative whereby more than 100,000 Brazilians will spend a year studying abroad by the end of 2015. They will be studying subjects such as biotechnology, ocean science and petroleum engineering which the government regards as essential for the nation’s future.

Students attending the EducationUSA Fair in Brasilia learn about Brazil's Science Without Borders initiative (Photo CJT Online)

Students attending the EducationUSA Fair in Brasilia learn about Brazil’s Science Without Borders initiative (Photo CJT Online)

The Institute for International Education or IIE is administering this initiative for the United States. The program will provide a substantive exchange experience at a U.S. college or university to a diverse group of emerging Brazilian student leaders to widen the academic and research exchange between the U.S. and Brazil. This initiative is the result of joint efforts from two sponsoring organizations, CAPES, the department within the Brazilian Ministry of Education devoted to the evaluation and expansion of higher education in Brazil and CNPq, the department within the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology devoted to the advancement of scientific research and technology and to the development of scientific research-related human resources..

Until now, few Brazilians have studied abroad. Last year there were only about 9,000 Brazilians on campuses in the United States (excluding language students). And those Brazilians who have foreign degrees have had a disproportionate influence back home. In the 1960s and 1970s, the government paid for PhDs abroad in oil exploration, agricultural research and aircraft design. Brazil is now a world leader in all three fields.

This week, representatives from 66 U.S. colleges and universities are participating in an education-focused trade mission to Brazil led by Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez. Education and training rank among the top 10 U.S. services exports. Tuition and living expenses from international students and their families brought in nearly $21 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2010-2011 academic year.

This trade mission will play an important role in helping participating colleges and universities boost the number of Brazilian students from 9,000, and in doing so, will support those institutions with full tuitions costs – as well as foster important cultural ties between the next generation of the world’s leaders.


Ideas for Prosperity: A Conference about Education and Cooperation in the Americas

March 22, 2012

Andrew Theodotou is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. Andrew is a sophomore at Georgetown University.

“People are our most valuable assets,” Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez pointed this out in his remarks to more than five hundred senior government officials, private sector leaders, university representatives, and students gathered at Georgetown University. The conference, held March 12-13, was officially titled “Making Latin America and the Caribbean a More Equitable Society: Education, Economic Growth, and Corporate Social Responsibility”.

The focus of the event was to facilitate a high-level dialogue on the importance of education as an economic driver for competitiveness.  The event attracted representatives from more than fifty universities throughout the hemisphere, many represented at the dean or university president level.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez speaks at Georgetown University during the Making Latin America and the Caribbean a More Equitable Society: Education, Economic Growth, and Corporate Social Responsibility Conference

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez speaks at Georgetown University during the Making Latin America and the Caribbean a More Equitable Society: Education, Economic Growth, and Corporate Social Responsibility Conference

Each of the addresses, dialogues, and roundtable discussions specifically highlighted the need to cultivate human capital in the Americas. They encouraged cooperation between the public and private sector throughout the hemisphere to achieve this goal and stressed the benefits afforded to all parties involved.

Participants discussed new ways to foster social and economic development in the Western Hemisphere as well as initiatives that have already been put into place towards this end.

In 2010, President Obama launched the “Change the Equation Initiative”, a CEO-led effort to bolster education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Knowledge of these subjects has been identified as a key asset in today’s workforce and a powerful driver of economic growth. Many of our neighbors in the Americas have initiated similar efforts, such as El Salvador’s “Supérate”, a program sponsored by Microsoft which offers after school training in computer science and English language training.   Such programs demonstrate the increasing role that the private sector plays in improving our education systems and overall economic competitiveness.

A key focus of this event was President Obama’s 100K Strong Initiative, which seeks to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to 100,000 while attracting the same amount from the LAC region to study in the United States.  By increasing the number of foreign students studying in U.S. universities, this will create an increase in service exports for the United States and ultimately help stimulate domestic growth and job creation.  In addition, the event strongly focused upon forging new linkages across the hemisphere as a means of sharing best practices and identifying new ways to share research and collaborate.

Programs like these are motivated by the idea that weak education systems are a major barrier to socio-economic development, even in the United States. They are also built on recognition that cooperation is essential in the solution to this problem. If governments can work with businesses to promote workforce development, then a whole economy can grow. If businesses can play a role in teaching their workers today’s essential skills, they can create jobs. And finally, if students can collaborate with their peers in other countries, they will build a mutual understanding and facilitate positive trade relationships in the future.

The conference at Georgetown University aimed to advance these relationships, with hopes that they will fuel competitive economies and lead to a higher standard of living and greater social equality.