CEO Mark Fields committed to supporting STEM educators
With about 199,000 employees and 67 plants worldwide, Ford Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company based in Dearborn, Michigan. In one of the most significant strategic shifts in the company’s history, Ford is expanding its business model to provide great products and great experiences that will help make people’s lives better and, ultimately, help change the way the world moves.
Ford understands that its future success is dependent upon developing innovative technologies that not only meet, but exceed, the demands of customers. And exceeding those expectations will only happen with the right talent. The automotive industry is one of many facing severe shortages of students and recent graduates entering the workforce with the skills and knowledge needed in technological and engineering fields. Ford believes it is critical to develop a pipeline of technically trained professionals and to create opportunities for students to become more engaged in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Mark Fields is president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company, and a member of the company’s board of directors.
Under Fields’ leadership, Ford is expanding its business model to be both an auto and a mobility company. Committed to growing and investing in its core business of designing, manufacturing, marketing, financing and servicing a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and electrified vehicles, as well as Lincoln luxury vehicles, Ford also is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility—the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and data and analytics.
What is your advice on using private-public partnerships to tackle our most pressing education challenges in STEM?
Mark Fields: In today’s global economy, education is a critical driver of individual economic success and community prosperity. Public-private partnerships are powerful tools that can effectively empower communities to create and scale innovative educational programs and initiatives, which include STEM. In order to tackle the most pressing education challenges, public private partnerships can be a strategic enabler to bringing sustainable change at a systemic level. A great example of a program like this at work is the Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL) program.
Ford NGL supports a network of 25 communities around the nation that are committed to comprehensive long-term education revitalization. Through Ford NGL, key players from public and private sectors—workforce and economic development groups, local employers, non-profits, and civic organizations—come together with their local school district to advocate, advise and assist in the development of high-quality, academically rigorous high school career academies. In these academies, students learn through the lens of a potential career—many of which are STEM-based and focus on areas such as engineering, manufacturing, IT, aerospace, and design, among other areas. Our Ford NGL initiative reaches more than 225,000 students.
In order to enjoy community prosperity and a strong talent pipeline, businesses need to recognize that it is in everyone’s best interest to support educators and engage them in meaningful, strategic, and sustainable ways, such as teacher externships—another key component of Ford NGL. By forming partnerships that support one another and push each other to go further, we all end up in a better place. That is the true power of public-private partnership.
How can we do a better job to strategically coordinate those engaged in STEM across companies and between different departments within companies?
MF: Research has shown that there is lack of a common language to describe skills and competencies among employers and training providers. In addition, it can be difficult to get accurate assessments of talent needs due to the lack of transparency around current and future demand for STEM jobs. To address this issue, it is beneficial for employers to come together and identify in-demand skill sets and competencies and develop STEM job profiles. These profiles can be used to help determine a standardized approach to define skill requirements. Using structured organizations like boards or councils can help standardize the approach to STEM initiatives across companies and provide forecasts to help assess future job demand.
Ideally, all STEM-related activities and initiatives within different departments of one company should be managed centrally to ensure corporate alignment, consistency of purpose, and unification of efforts. In addition, mentorships, internships and apprenticeship opportunities should be offered to build and strengthen the STEM pipeline.
What counsel would you provide on “collaborating to achieve success” in STEM education and the workforce?
MF: A key building block for success in this space is communication to raise STEM awareness at a variety of levels, including:
- Continuing to change perceptions and increase the interest in STEM, including using student/parent/teacher surveys to measure interest and awareness of STEM
- Developing a culture where the entire community believes that developing the STEM workforce is an investment in its own future
- Engaging training providers to evaluate STEM curriculum and program structure, ensuring alignment with employment needs of the future
- Leveraging STEM subject matter experts to supplement curriculum by adding workplace experience into classrooms. This training should align with employer requirements and help students develop STEM technical skills in advance of employment
- Engaging senior students and STEM graduates to champion regional STEM efforts. Many younger students have limited exposure to current and future STEM occupations
- Provide opportunities for working-age adults to retrain and up-skill themselves to potentially address workforce needs
- Incentivize workforce development agencies to direct clients towards technical training tracks
How does STEM leadership with a focus on diversity help your company compete?
MF: Ford Motor Company understands that diversity makes us a better and stronger company, by bringing in fresh ideas, perspectives, and experiences. As a leader in STEM initiatives, Ford has invested significantly in programs to support our communities and build the next-generation workforce. We believe it is crucial to ensure we attract, develop and retain a workforce that has diverse perspectives, skills and backgrounds to drive the innovation needed to compete with global automotive and mobility leaders. In having a diverse and inclusive environment, individuals can better collaborate, problem solve, and increase their creativity to support our long-term business strategies.
Reprinted with Permission from STEMconnector. This is an excerpt of the article included as part of the 100 CEO Leaders in STEM published by STEMconnector. For full publication, visit http://stemconnector.org/100-ceo-leaders-in-stem-v2.