Building America’s future: students, STEM, and the global economy

Keynote speaker, Vince Bertram, speaks to Chicago students about opportunities in STEM careers and engineering.

By Anisa Samarxhiu September 9, 2014

Dr. Vince Bertram, president of Project Lead the Way, began by telling the audience that it was his teachers that inspired him to get higher expectations for himself and to do more than he though he could. The Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS was built for students to show them all the opportunities available in careers that they may not have thought of. Bertram identified two key issues in the school system today: Too many people have low expectations for the students and that students have too low expectations of themselves. 

The STEM industry is a growing industry. Where there are 20 million people in America unemployed or underemployed; the unemployment rate in STEM is half the general U.S. unemployment rate. The major problem that the manufacturing jobs face is having one generation go into retirement and not have enough people trained to replace them. As technology is constantly changing, the key to job security is acquiring the job skills to be able to keep up with the global economy and constant innovation. Learning to collaborate, problem solve, and thinking critically are the skills that the new generation will need to keep up the constantly changing technology. By debunking the myth that one needs a 4 year bachelors degree to find a job, Bertram offered an alternative of going to a 2 year school and getting a technical degree, citing “a better return on your investment.” About 150 students present at the keynote session. 

Doctor Bertram ended by reading to his audience an email he got from Jesus, a high school junior from Englewood, Calif. Jesus expressed his interest in robotics and asked Bertram if there was a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) in his neighborhood. Bertram was happy to report that because of this student, and his initiative to take control of his education, there was one a PLTW program active at his school. With 13,000 students registered for the Smartforce Student Summit, the Association for Manufacturing hopes to inspire these Chicago students to do the same. 

Greg Jones, vice president of Smartforce development, added that 200 students signed up on Sunday, alone, the day before opening day of IMTS. 

­- Anisa Samarxhiu, Digital Project Manager, CFE Media,  

For more information, see