Sunday, March 15, 2015

Encourage the Next Generation of STEM Professionals

ASQ asks the question about the next generation of STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals.   My personal experience is that STEM is very much alive and well, with lots of opportunity to grow, especially in Canada and the United States.  

On a personal note, mentoring and motivating is what I do all the time.  
More importantly, both my sons went through science programs in their university years.  One moved on to the world of high tech and internet start-ups and the other to medicine (In an on-line survey [ ] that asks the question are medicine and allied health professions STEM disciplines(?), over 80 percent vote to the affirmative).  Both have great careers, and importantly have integrated Quality and Improvement into their professional activities and development.

At my university, Engineering is thriving very well.  It continues to have far more applicants than places and continues to require extremely qualified students.  The faculty apparently offers courses in a broad diversity of sub-disciplines at a variety of levels, and apparently all are filled to capacity.

It is difficult to talk about how well or unwell STEM disciplines are doing.  In another fairly recent study [see:] it appears that there is opportunity for growth in STEM education in North America (see the figure), although I have to say that if this figure is an example of the state of STEM knowledge we have a very serious problem. 

Measuring by percentage of graduates has to be just about the poorest application of statistical analysis, ignoring more important issues like, population size, numbers of universities, variety of faculty choices, and many more important variables.   Without looking too deeply, one can say with absolute and total confidence that the United States creates many, many, many fold more STEM graduates than does Finland. 

If we have an apparent increase in vacancies in STEM positions, I think there are a variety of factors that need to be taken into account, at least in Canada, and probably the United States.

  • At one time the United States dominated in science and technology positions.  Today the positions have become far more internationally distributed. 
  • Since the economic downturn in 2008, the pace of manufacturing job increase has dropped dramatically.  While certain parts of the sector, especially high tech has grown significantly, many other jobs are either sitting, or have left the continent.    As the economy becomes more stable and a sense of confidence returns, many positions will open.  They may look very different from what they looked like in the past,
  • The costs of university education have continued to climb, and many people are questioning the wisdom of leaving school with debt of $200K or more.  Scholarships can make the entry decision easier, but having the confidence of an opportunity when the smoke clears is probably at least as important.

  • If the classifiers of STEM disciplines classify their positions narrowly, they are excluding many graduates that are indeed science oriented. Fields including biotechnology, genetics, pharma, nano-tech, tele-health, are making revolutionary change who we are and what we do and will continue for many years to come.   

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Quality and the Quality Conference

Quality oriented conferences have become prolific these days, even in the Medical Laboratory arena.  This actually makes a lot of sense because Quality has become a very relevant issue at almost every level.  It is a HOT topic.

There are so many aspects of Quality that touch the Laboratory arena include Costs, Clinical Relevancy, Patient Safety, Culture, Risk.  It has become near impossible to keep up with moving trends and recent advances if you are not connected to the Quality community.  

For those of you that visit this site from time to time, you may recall a post that I wrote about 9 months ago:  see  in which I argued the downsides of conference travel including cost, and risk.  Perhaps you may think that my now planning on hosting a meeting might seem a bit hypocritical.  

I would not agree.  Thinking in terms of Risk, one can look at conferences from both a occurrence/severity perspective and a risk/benefit perspective, and I can argue that if a meeting has high enough value of information and is held in a really nice and low risk environment and at a fair cost then the balance of factors leans strongly to the side of hosting and attending.  

So I will start from the positive high value side, or as Crosby would say it “Quality has to be defined as conformance to requirements”.  Will the meeting meet customer requirements?

In a short 2 and a half days, we will have speakers talking on Health-Quality-and the Law, on Safety as the Quality Imperative, on Modern Tools for the Modern Quality Manager, and on techniques to solidify the Culture of Quality.   It will be difficult to find a meeting that will provide a better array of topics.  Within those subjects we will talk about Teaching Quality to Adult Learners, reducing risk through Conflict Resolution, Establishing real time inventories of laboratory error and safety accidents and injuries,  We will look at calculating true costs of poor Quality (how Crosbyesque is that!) and determining risk in pre-and post examination processes.  

We will have presentations and roundtable discussions, and presenter contact time and the opportunities for posters and sponsor interactions.  All in all, this will be a high content conference.  This is exactly the structure that meets the Andragogy criteria for Adult Learning. 

In terms of the potential for bad outcomes by every measure they are very small.  The conference is being held in one of the most picturesque cities in North America (Vancouver BC) at a time with little risk for inclement weather, and essentially no risk for personal adversity.  Vancouver is an ideal city; big enough to be world class, but not so big that you get swamped and hit with major costs.  It is a major travel destination, with easy access from across Canada, the United States, Western Europe and Asia.   Thanks to the recent Olympics there is a truly beautiful and efficient airport, to be sure.  

 So it would be fair, reasonable and accurate to say with conviction that the potential for downside risk from either the occurrence or severity perspective is low-low-low.  

Some of you will want to know more and for those of you interested the preliminary website is available now at: .

I look forward to meeting with some of you in Vancouver from October 28-30, 2015.  

More information will be available shortly. 
I will keep you informed.