What’s Behind Siemens’ Big Gift to a Cincinnati Community College

Can a company’s single donation to a community college stimulate students’ interest in STEM and manufacturing careers? The electronics giant Siemens hopes so, having recently donated $67 million in engineering software to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Siemens gave the software to the college in an attempt to stimulate student interest in engineering and manufacturing careers, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier.

Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software enables engineers to digitally design and test new products. It also helps them put the new products through simulations that will test their performance. Steve Bashada, senior vice president for industry strategy at Siemens, hopes this new software will generate student excitement around manufacturing in the digital age.

“It’s up to us to create the thrill of being the next technical rock star,” Bashada said.

Cincinnati State’s president, O’dell Owens called the Siemens gift “transformative,” adding, “I know that’s an overused word, but it really is.”

Overused or not, "transformative" may be just the word to describe what is needed to boost student interest in manufacturing. Siemens CEO Eric Spiegel cited a study by McKinsey and Company, which found that while most Americans recognize the importance of manufacturing, few want their children to enter the field. For most people, manufacturing conjures up turn-of-the-century images of workers performing repetitive, menial tasks in noisy factories. News reports of companies moving manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries have not helped the sector’s image, either.

But manufacturing remains a vibrant part of the U.S. economy—and today’s factory is not your parents’ or grandparents’ workplace. Today’s manufacturing jobs are not about standing on an assembly line clutching hand tools, but about skilled labor and operating high-tech equipment to produce increasingly sophisticated goods.

In short, modern manufacturing requires educated, skilled workers, and companies like Siemens are looking to community colleges to supply those workers. The software gift signals that Siemens is serious about STEM education and attracting a new generation of manufacturing talent. Because community colleges, in Owens’ words, “create the middle class,” they would do well to assess the need for skilled labor in their communities and forge alliances with local industries that can spark greater student interest in these technology-driven fields.