Women part of solution to manufacturing skills gap

October 1, 2015
Cathy Wilson

Cathy Wilson

It’s no secret that women are underutilized in the manufacturing field. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women comprise nearly 50 percent of the total U.S. labor force, yet only account for 27 percent of all workers in manufacturing.

In the Lincoln Trail region, manufacturing is growing at a high rate and is one of our principal job creators. Moreover, there are more manufacturing jobs available than there are skilled workers to fill them. Manufacturers have undertaken a number of efforts to close the manufacturing skills gap. Showing women they can have a lasting, high-paying, accomplished career in the manufacturing sector is part of the solution.

“Women need to be aware of the opportunities available to them in the manufacturing field,” said Eleanor Jordan, executive director for the Kentucky Commission on Women. “Careers in manufacturing can offer women economic self-sufficiency, stability and advancement,” Jordan said.

Together with the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, the Kentucky Commission on Women is sponsoring a conference about drawing more women into manufacturing and educational pathways that lead to manufacturing. One of multiple Manufacturing Month activities held across the state, the conference, Women in Manufacturing: Workforce Solutions, will be held Oct. 29 in Lexington.

Traditionally, women have not considered manufacturing career paths in part because of archaic ideas of what manufacturing entails. For some, this type of work still is considered unskilled physical labor.

Manufacturing jobs of today have evolved to prospects for technicians, designers, mechanical, electrical engineers, managers and more.

“We have to dispel outdated myths of what it means to work in manufacturing,” Jordan said. “It’s not all about brawn anymore. It’s about brain.”

In addition, women may be hesitant to explore manufacturing careers because, historically, women haven’t typically filled these roles. But as more women choose technical careers, more could consider career options in manufacturing.

“This is another choice for women that previously wasn’t there,” Jordan said. “Everyone may not want to go this route, but the important thing is that they have the opportunity.”

Manufacturers are looking for employees with the technical skills that give their companies a competitive advantage. To achieve this, it is critical that we ensure job seekers and future job seekers, including women, know those technical skills can lead to interesting, high-paying careers in the manufacturing sector.

For those who are mathematically or technically inclined, manufacturing is an excellent career path choice with plentiful options. In the Lincoln Trail region, we’re very fortunate to have a wide range of manufacturing opportunities tied to a number of industries across the globe. Manufacturers in our region are inventing and patenting items used all over the world.

As an employer, encouraging more women to enter the manufacturing field and seeking out those skilled workers is just good business. And for women, this prevalent yet too-often overlooked field has a lot to offer, from challenging work in a technology-driven environment to high compensation and advancement opportunities.

Cathy Wilson is manager of product development at Gates Corporation in Elizabethtown. She can be reached at (270) 766-3562 or cathywilson@gates.com.


The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail helps match job seekers with local employment and training opportunities. Our business solutions team offers employers of all sizes and industries personalized support to build a competitive workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer.
Program is funded with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funds through the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.
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