How women are changing the landscape of manufacturing

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The manufacturing landscape is rapidly progressing away from the traditional stereotype of dirty, dark, dull and dangerous. Rapid technological advances and the convergence of physical and digital manufacturing are creating nontraditional career opportunities for younger generations. They are also establishing the potential for better products, lower costs and faster time-to-market.

Talent at all levels is critical to maintaining a competitive advantage in the industry. However, a shortfall of about 2 million workers is expected over the next two decades — according to a survey by the Manufacturing Institute, APICS and Deloitte — leaving six of every 10 positions unfilled because of a skills gap. “Employers need people who can add context to information, synthesizing broad and diverse experiences and knowledge to provide analysis and make recommendations,” says Carrie Zethmayr, who offers holistic business advisory services from her Zethmayr Inc. office in Rockford, Illinois. “It is important to have diversity in the workforce.”

The survey, “Stepping Up to Make an Impact That Matters,” also mentions at least one critical element that can help to close the skills gap, but it remains largely untapped: women.

“Talent at all levels is a critical component to maintain a competitive advantage in the industry.”

Some companies are partnering with local educational institutions and manufacturing organizations and groups to help attract and recruit younger generations, especially girls. To Bethany Mead, community outreach coordinator at CEANCI in Rockford, classes in high school that focus on trades like small engines, welding and construction are excellent for providing hands-on experiences for students.

Over at Superior Joining Technologies in Machesney Park, Illinois, owner Teresa Beach-Shelow and her staffers “work with robotics and LEGO teams to encourage young women to stay in this field. We also need to encourage our own daughters and granddaughters in other areas, such as finance, quality and program planning. The landscape of manufacturing is wide open for women.”

Janie Clark, the Midwest Central Service manager for Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence in Elgin, Illinois, agrees: “It is up to our generation to empower the female leaders of tomorrow.”