Last year, three organizations, the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte, and APICS, conducted a survey of executives in the Manufacturing Industry to gauge the success they were having in attracting and retaining women and what could be done to inspire a new generation of young women with an interest and aptitude in manufacturing.
The results were released in a study, Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to Make an Impact That Mattersand its findings were encouraging. "Many schools and the manufacturing industry have upped their game over the last two years and women are noticing," they wrote.
One of the regular outreach efforts that the Northeastern Colorado Manufacturing Partnership (NECOM) sponsors each year took place recently as eighty young women gathered at Morgan Community College for the third annual "Girls Only Event: Women In Manufacturing." The event provided eighty girls from seven local schools with an opportunity to do some career exploration.
The event is also an opportunity for the industry to capture the imaginations of teen girls, all eighth and ninth-graders at Brush Middle School, Brush High School, Idalia School, Prairie School, Genoa Hugo School, Deer Trail School and Fort Morgan High School. In addition to NECOM, the event is co-sponsored by Morgan Community College and the Eastern Colorado Workforce Center in Fort Morgan.
During the day, four breakout sessions were held. In the Engineering Session, Ellie Monarch of the Colorado School of Mines discussed the road she had taken to an engineering and manufacturing career and she showed the participants how to construct a catapult.
In a session called Makers Space, Sara Reichert of the Fort Morgan Library showed the students how to code and stressed the emphasis on high tech skills that the industry depends on today. Kelsi Perkins with Cargill conducted a Virtual Welding session and Morgan Spencer, Lynne Taylor and Doug Wells with Agri-Inject in Yuma hosted a session that explained how Lean Manufacturing is changing how products are made. The company is utilizing cutting-edge technology to produce fertilizer and crop protection products.
The breakout sessions were educational but also filled with fun and competition. In the spirit of the Olympic Games, the girls separated into teams and competed in timed competitions during each session. Awards (pink toolkits, pink hardhats, and copper-lensed safety glasses) were awarded to the top three teams.
At the end of the day, a panel discussion was held with Melissa Vondy of the Barry E. Walter Sr. Company and Kelsi Perkins, Morgan Spencer and Ellie Monarch. The high school and middle school students were able to ask about the industry and many had questions about how these women had made inroads into it. The panelists talked candidly with the teens about the new Manufacturing Industry and stressed the importance of building the groundwork for their future.
What can we do to help guide young women who are interested in a career in Manufacturing? To start, it's worth taking a look at what educators, workforce professionals, and industry leaders are already doing to help close the gender gap. In Eastern Colorado, the work is well underway.