U.S. job outlook: Robotics training could pay off for future engineers
Thanks to the current focus on STEM-related subjects, robotics engineering training among children is becoming increasingly popular — though it has yet to become mainstream in public education.
To counter that, private learning centers like Bricks 4 Kidz are helping children as young as 6 master foundational programming concepts in fun, developmentally appropriate ways. Among other benefits, researchers contend such activities can help get kids interested in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) that may lead to exceptional careers later in life. As noted by the authors of a Tufts University study last year: “The field of robotics holds special potential for early childhood classrooms by facilitating cognitive as well as fine motor and social development. Young children can become engineers by playing with motors and sensors, as well as storytellers by creating and sharing personally meaningful projects that react in response to their environment.”
That could be important in a world forecasting a serious undersupply of professionals in STEM fields; overall demand in the U.S. is projected to outpace supply through at least 2023, with at least a million more STEM grads needed in that time frame. As for the mechanical engineers most likely to focus on robotics, jobs are slated to grow 5 percent annually through 2024, meaning the nation should be employing some 292,100 such professionals by that time. Last year, mechanical engineers in the U.S. were earning a healthy median salary of $83,599.
Tomorrow’s robotics specialists are expected to be engaged in everything from creating next-generation toys and animatronic equipment to designing specialized robots for manufacturing and space exploration.
The U.S. has been proactive about the impending demand by providing STEM education funding that jumped from $2.9 billion in 2014 to almost $3.1 billion this year. And Americans are responding; such efforts led to men earning 40 percent more bachelor degrees in science and engineering between 2004 and 2014, with women earning 29 percent more. Doctoral degrees were boosted 58 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
President Obama reiterated the importance of STEM training for youth in a speech last year.
“The United States has always been a place that loves science,” he noted. “We’ve always been obsessed with tinkering and discovering and inventing and pushing the very boundaries of what’s possible. Technological discovery helped us become the world’s greatest economic power. Scientific and medical breakthroughs helped us become the greatest source of hope around the world. And that’s not just our past, that’s also our future.”
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