ATLANTA – Rockwell Automation is giving $12 million to a nonprofit called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to help it address the critical need to fill science, technology, education and math (STEM) jobs that drive innovation – a cause to which the company has provided more than $15 million worth of broad-based support in the last decade.
CEO Blake Moret hinted at the donation last week as he previewed Rockwell’s Automation Fair.
The $12 million gift to FIRST is the biggest gift the organization has ever received – and the biggest give Rockwell has ever made, he noted.
“Through our technology and people, we are helping to inspire the next generation of innovators to fill the talent pipeline for our customers and for our company,” Moret said in prepared remarks. “Our strategic partnership with FIRST helps us increase our reach and visibility to STEM students around the world.”
In addition to being a global sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League program and sole sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Rockwell Automation Innovation in Control Award, nearly 200 Rockwell Automation employees around the world donate their time for the FIRST programs, the Milwaukee-based company said.
Rockwell also donates products integral to FIRST program games and scoring. These product donations are specifically used for the FIRST Robotics Competition playing fields and scoring systems, and they are included within the parts kits teams use to build their robots.
The gift will let FIRST “focus on the strategic aspects of our partnership while continuing to help scale our programs and expose students to a broader range of industry-leading products and applications,” FIRST President Donald Bossi said.
Dean Kamen, an inventor, founded FIRST in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering.
The nonprofit organization provides more than $30 million in college scholarships. It also hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition for students in grades 9-12; FIRST Tech Challenge for grades 7-12; FIRST LEGO League for grades 4-8; and FIRST LEGO League Jr. for grades K-4.
”The skills gap is one that affects us all,” Moret told hundreds of people gathered to preview the show. “In the US alone, there are hundreds of thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs that are going unfilled because talent doesn’t have the necessary skills.”
Some manufacturers that have a competitive edge risk losing it because they are having a tough time replacing the many people currently doing jobs that require STEM-related skills who are getting close to retirement, he said. “That’s a huge trend for us.”
“STEM education cannot be overstated in it’s important to the vibrancy and the competitiveness of the manufacturing economy,” Moret added.