Wanted: Women to Fill Well Paying Jobs in Manufacturing

Here at CrossWind Machining we know hard difficult it can be to find skilled workers to run our machines.  We are in a niche here, making small diameter parts for the medical device industry.  Not to mention that the machines we use are swiss screw machines, which are even harder to find machining talent for than your standard mill or lathe machine.  CrossWind is situated in the Sierra Foothills of CA.  The scenery is amazing, it is cheaper here than many areas in the state, we have a low crime rate, great schools, etc., but it is still very difficult to find the talent that we need to help our company to grow.  One of the biggest reasons for this is that women are not being drawn to this field.

“Women constitute manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent in the United States. They comprise just over one-fourth (27 percent) of manufacturing employees even though women make up nearly half (47 percent) of the total U.S. labor force.”  Overall, there is a shortage in skilled workers in the manufacturing field which contributes to this, but how can we attract women to manufacturing?  The Manufacturing Institute did an intensive study on women in manufacturing.  They asked questions like “why aren’t there more?”, “how do we attract women?”, and “how can we retain them once they are there?”. They found that one of the biggest problems hiring companies are finding is that manufacturing jobs aren’t well promoted in schools as being well-paying jobs.  There are so many careers in this industry that pay $40k+/yr.  Currently, as of 03/2017 the Bureau of Labor and Statics reports that jobs in the manufacturing field make an average of $51,240.  This, of course, encompasses wood products, metal products, machinery, medical device, aerospace, etc. 
Distribution of manufacturing employment
by occupational group
Source: BLS.gov

Another issue that we're facing is that when people think of mills, machine shops, and other manufacturing businesses they think of a dirty and dark building full of men that “talk shop” all day.  That kind of atmosphere is not one that will draw many women in.  However, this isn’t the case anymore.  With modern technology and increasing demands for cleanliness and precision of products, these shops have become a wonderful place for men and women that want jobs in the STEM field.  Business like these have moved towards automation to bring up their quality and product output which also makes some of the older machinery (that people think of as dangerous or messy) obsolete.

Even though these jobs are open to both sexes only 27.4% of these employees are women.   Someone starting out in the field as an assembler, machine operator or fabricator (no college degree is needed for the vast majority of these jobs) can expect to make somewhere between $37k and $70k, but a programmer, with an average salary of $69,000/yr is a better paying option for those with good math skills and some schooling. The best paying average wage in the manufacturing category is for an engineer. with a 4 year degree, making between $60k to $127k.   There are so many well-paid career opportunities in manufacturing that are a fantastic fit for so many women out there, but it’s not “put out there” in a way that draws women in.

What motivates women to stay or go? Respondents ranked
opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments,
attractive pay and work-life balance as the top three most important priorities.
The Manufacturing Institute

Occupations adding the most jobs in manufacturing and their job openings in all industries, projected 2012-22
Women in Manufacturing is one group that is really gaining steam in trying to bridge the gender gap in the industry.  “WiM is a more than 700-member-strong national association dedicated to supporting, promoting and inspiring women who are pursuing or have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry”.  They hold conferences, have on-line professional training, assist in networking, and have many other benefits for their members. In 2016 WiMEF was established as a branch which aims to provide funding for many of the initiatives that will help women improve their skills and themselves professionally.  One of their goals is to just get the word out that manufacturing can be a great fit for women.  WiM’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Shiela LaMoth, recently sat down with Thomasnet.com for an interview and was quoted saying “A recent WiM survey found that more than 80% of women who work in manufacturing find their work rewarding. We need to get the word out and recruit more women into these high-tech, high-paying jobs. More women entering manufacturing and succeeding is good for women and for the industry. 



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