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Women in Skilled Trades

Empowering Women in the “New Collar” Manufacturing Workforce

If I asked you what you thought when you heard the phrase “manufacturing jobs,” more often than not you’d probably recall an image of what manufacturing used to look like — the kind of jobs your parents or grandparents might have held. Today, however, we live in a new age of manufacturing. Modern manufacturing is increasingly high-skill, high-tech, high-pay, and it’s creating jobs that go beyond the old definitions of blue collar or white collar. These are new-collar jobs.

Connecting talent with opportunity

And yet, today alone there are more than 364,000 open jobs manufacturers cannot fill. Why is that? Companies simply cannot find enough workers with the right skills. Most prominently, this is due to the decline of technical education and manufacturing’s perception problem. Both issues are linked. Both need to be addressed. And I believe women hold the key to doing so.

The organization I lead, the Manufacturing Institute, is working to close the skills gap every day. If we’re going to get the right workers in these high-paying jobs, we need to find ways to connect them with the opportunities. That’s why we launched programs like Heroes MAKE America to prepare veterans with the skills they need for manufacturing careers, and initiatives like Manufacturing Day to change the perception of the industry for the next generation of manufacturers. And that’s why we developed the STEP (science, technology, engineering and production) Ahead initiative to encourage women to pursue manufacturing as a career. 

Engaging current and future leaders

The reality is, women make up more than half of our country’s population and a similar percentage of the overall labor force, yet they represent only about a quarter of the manufacturing workforce. That’s a problem. We need to get women engaged in manufacturing careers, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because we are underutilizing a huge portion of the workforce demographic if we fail to do so. It’s my mission and the mission of the Institute to bring that message to more women across the country.

Last month, I traveled to schools and manufacturing companies across the country as part of the 2018 State of Manufacturing Tour. As I travelled, I was able to meet with many incredible women who are helping to make this economy strong, from those already in the manufacturing workforce to those training to join it. As I think about these impressive women, I look forward to the STEP Ahead Awards on April 10 where we will honor 130 leaders, the best of the best, in manufacturing — women who have committed to paying it forward and encouraging the next generation to join them in this career path.

Filling a critical role

The Manufacturing Institute is dedicated to showcasing the reality of modern-day manufacturing to our sisters, mothers and daughters through STEP Ahead by highlighting these innovative and rewarding careers on a national stage. And yet, while we are excited to recognize these amazing women who have demonstrated excellence in their careers, we also know that we still have more work to do. Manufacturers need the diverse talent, minds and skills to be competitive in the industry. From making life saving medicines, to the clothing that keeps us warm, to the planes we fly and the cars we drive every day, manufacturers are solving problems on a global scale. Having this important influence on others is something that people strive for, and it’s just what you can find with a career in manufacturing. Manufacturers need more qualified women like you. So I hope you will consider a fulfilling career in manufacturing.

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