Workforce Blog: We Need to Reimagine Workforce 4.0

Workforce Blog: We Need to Reimagine Workforce 4.0

ASME is supporting new strategies to diversify and expand the talent pool.

Last November, ASME and the ASME Foundation partnered with the Stevens Institute of Technology to convene an Executive Roundtable of leaders from industry, academia, government, and the nonprofit sector. The purpose was to explore strategies for expanding pathways into ME postsecondary programs, particularly for students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in engineering, that would ultimately lead to rewarding technical careers.

Building regional ecosystems

Today, millions of well-paying technical jobs are currently unfilled due to a shortage of skilled technical workers. These jobs require specialized skills and training, but not necessarily a four-year (or higher) engineering degree. Community colleges and other certification programs may go a long way toward filling this gap, but many lack the resources and networks to successfully connect aspiring talent with employers.

This disconnect was the impetus behind ASME’s Community College Engineering Pathways (CCEP) initiative, which seeks to bridge the divide among students, post-secondary schools, and employers. With support from the ASME Foundation, a pilot CCEP program launched in 2022 and began to roll out nationally during the current academic year. (The Foundation is currently seeking funding partners to help it scale.)

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Roundtable participants identified weak connections and lack of alignment among the various stakeholders as a challenge. Organizations with larger footprints, including major companies and elite universities, benefit from robust talent pipelines, while more regional companies, organizations, and colleges struggle to match students and curricula with specific jobs available in the local economy. Both larger and smaller organizations need help pairing students with employers seeking interns and apprentices.

To address this opportunity, ASME is developing regional talent ecosystems to strengthen the technical workforce. Beginning in regions where ASME already has strong relationships, such as the Northeast, Midwest, and California, this work will foster relationships among regional stakeholders through local convenings similar to the Stevens Institute event, synthesize national-level research and trends for use at the regional level, and share promising local pilots and other efforts among regions.

Focusing on retention

Though significant efforts and resources are dedicated to getting more young people interested in engineering and related fields, less is done to help them persist in the field through difficult coursework, social barriers associated with coming from a background that is underrepresented in engineering, the struggle of finding a first professional role, and other challenges. The result is significant loss from technical talent pipelines, reducing the ROI of efforts to spark interest in these fields, and reinforcing the idea that engineering career paths are for a select few rather than broadly accessible.

ASME will increasingly drive a conversation around how retention strategies—including mentorship and role model identification, social support, and guidance in finding and thriving in initial technical roles—can become a more prominent part of sector-wide efforts to develop a more diverse and talented technical workforce.

Reducing time-to-talent

The time it takes to develop technical talent from K-12 through a post-secondary degree or credential continues to lengthen. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most American postsecondary students now take six years or more to complete a bachelor’s degree.

ASME is working with partners on new strategies for reducing this lag, such as getting students into internships and apprenticeships earlier in their professional trajectories and ensuring postsecondary programs focus on the most in-demand skills. Other tactics include encouraging young people to be judicious about whether they can prepare themselves for the roles they want through certificate programs or two-year degrees and strategizing with employers about how roles can be tailored to the skill sets of graduates from shorter programs.

Through initiatives such as the Executive Roundtables and CCEP, among others, the ASME Foundation is helping close the skills gap and open doors of opportunity. 

For more information about the ASME Foundation’s workforce development programs, visit

Christine Reilley is managing director of strategy and innovation at ASME.

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