June 27, 2016
Other Voices

Efforts to woo female manufacturers critical to CT economy

Elliot Ginsberg

It was encouraging to read the "Manufacturing Diversity: Shorthanded-producers open arms to female apprentices" story in the May 23 issue of HBJ. The feature about Hannah Lenoce's experience as an apprentice toolmaker at Cheshire's Marion Manufacturing is truly inspiring on multiple levels.

It speaks not only to the energy and enthusiasm Lenoce demonstrates, but also to the serious challenge facing manufacturers in Connecticut and around the country — how to attract young talent, both men and women, to meet the needs of this expanding industry.

As the article points out, women are dramatically underserved in the manufacturing ranks. Only one in four of the country's manufacturing workers is a woman. The decades-old dark, dank and dirty image of manufacturing overshadows the industry and discourages women from even considering the field.

There is good news. In addition to the outstanding work by Marion Manufacturing and Women in Manufacturing, more positive efforts are being made to erase negative perceptions and shift the career of choice trend to manufacturing opportunities.

Through Connecticut. Dream It. Do It., licensed and led by the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc., the annual "Making It Real: Girls & Manufacturing Summit" gives middle and high school girls a chance to meet successful women in manufacturing and to experience what it is like to work in a manufacturing company.

Hundreds of girls hear the motivating, personal stories of how to succeed in a predominantly male industry from women who have been there and done it. The girls are advised to be confident, assertive in expressing their ideas and diligent in striving to excel.

During hands-on workshops at the event, young women work in teams representing departments — purchasing, production, quality control — to produce a product and learn how each unit is critical to the process. In other sessions, the focus is on creativity and business strategies, where girls have a set budget for purchasing raw materials and need to complete tasks within a time frame to meet customer delivery deadlines.

Connecticut. Dream It. Do It.'s "Making It Real: Girls & Manufacturing Summit" is recognized as a national best practice by The Manufacturing Institute and is featured in MI's toolkit to help manufacturers lead the charge in attracting more women to the manufacturing workforce. With women comprising only about 27 percent of the industry labor force, the challenge is significant but not insurmountable.

According to one teacher who attended the Girls & Manufacturing Summit, "Our students enjoyed the hands-on activities provided at this workshop. Most of the students would consider a career in manufacturing as a result of the summit, and I feel we, as educators, are better equipped to promote careers in the manufacturing industry to our female students."

Elliot Ginsberg is the president and chief operating officer of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc. in East Hartford.

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