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How the image of manufacturing is affecting the future workforce

  • 1.  How the image of manufacturing is affecting the future workforce

    Posted 06-21-2018 09:21

    I have been actively participating in recruitment and trying to attract young talent and women to the industry since I began my time here at QMC nearing 10 years ago. We began an advanced manufacturing internship program (qmcpath.com) to try and open the dialog between our company and qualified potential team members. As a result - I have had the ability to learn about some of the strongest components keeping women from seeking a career in the industry.  One of the biggest issues I have had to face head on specifically that impacts our ability to attract women - is in the industries image. I have heard from many that "manufacturing is a man's industry and even men don't want to pursue that as a career anymore". Many women tend to gear their careers away from the industry based on the public perception combined with their own family members past times and stories about their days on the factory floor.

    The very honest perception is that manufacturing is still dirty, grimy, exhausting work in a sweat shop. Their parents did it, their grandparents did it - and both generations had many similar experiences.

    Additionally - during the recession, when many lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector- the perception that job availability and security was minimal, only aided to negatively impact the women's perception of the industry even further. If the women haven't heard it from their husbands or partners - they have most likely heard it from fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins and/or friends to "stay away from that place or a job like that". Most recently, when the steel tariffs for imports were added on in March 2018 - it was featured news coverage about how the industry would be negatively impacted and job security would be affected as well.

    Manufacturing has a long way to go but there is good news to spread. We know the industry is in an on-going revolution! There are many companies implementing advanced manufacturing technologies and ergonomics programs. We know of companies incorporating full cultural overhauls to provide people of all backgrounds/lifestyles/identities and social values an equal opportunity and healthy work environment. But until our industry starts advertising it's ongoing "facelift" and that the new advanced modern manufacturing isn't nearly what manufacturing of 40 years ago or even 10 year years ago was - we believe that the stigmas will continue to linger and so will the difficulties of attracting and retaining strong female talent to drive companies like ours forward!

    With this in mind, I would be interested to know what encouraged you to pursue a career in an industry that is still surrounded by a looming black cloud of negative stereotypes (no jobs, lack of diversity, lack of pay and stability, unsafe and dirty work environments, etc)?



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    Rachael Serafin
    QMC Technologies, Inc
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  • 2.  RE: How the image of manufacturing is affecting the future workforce

    Posted 06-22-2018 10:28
    I would love to hear answers to Rachael's question too!

    The perception of manufacturing is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome, so I'm intrigued to hear from those in the industry.

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    AJ Jorgenson
    AVP, Strategic Engagement
    The Manufacturing Institute
    Washington DC
    202-637-3115
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  • 3.  RE: How the image of manufacturing is affecting the future workforce

    Posted 06-22-2018 11:49
    ​I was homeless when I entered into manufacturing. Some "backstory" on that, straight A student, played an instrument since 6th grade. Got accepted to ECU School Of Music. Family didn't make enough to pay for college. They had sent me to ECU Band camp every summer for almost 6 years, then I couldn't even attend college. My mom's job gave me a scholarship that covered my first year at the community college. When that year was up I made a decision to go into the military to get funds for school. My father had several jobs close down so he had took some welding classes while I was in high school. He asked me and brothers to come with, even if we slept in class, just come. Eventually I started playing around with the metal. When I entered the Navy I chose the Steelworker rate because I knew welding. I ended up homeless at a point, with two children, and the only skill I had for a resume was welding (waiting tables was not a good one). I have been at this company ever since.
    I believe it all starts with education. To change a perception outsiders have to be educated. I attend all my children's career days because the police, fire fighters, nurses, and so forth always represent and I will make sure that I represent.
    My dad looked past the "industry" piece of the jobs that closed down. He knew that his children were smart and capable. He saw the things we gravitated to and tried to get us to learn multiple things in the case one fail through. We would still have some skills and understanding to fall back on.
    We don't have to attack people with how manufacturing is the best choice. We need to be willing to show parents, children, so forth the qualities and strengths that it takes to do manufacturing and inspire their creative, innovative curiosities so the dirty, grim pieces of manufacturing don't matter. I recall an interview where I was asked my concerns about a job and I explained, then the interviewer said, "Oh! I thought you might be concerned about being outside in the elements." I love my job and what I do, I could care less about the elements!

    I have chosen to pursue the title of Mrs. Virginia America 2019 so that I can reach more about this very topic. At this point I can only make my local area aware and it is only happening one conversation at a time. I am excited to make our schools and communities aware of manufacturing and aware of the need to educate the kids. I am hoping that this title and platform together in itself will prove that all things are not always what they seem at first glance.

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    Kelli Gilliam
    Apprentice Craft Instructor/Welding Foreman
    Huntington Ingalls Industries
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  • 4.  RE: How the image of manufacturing is affecting the future workforce

    Posted 06-25-2018 15:43
    @Kelli Gilliam - You're story is amazing.  I might've welled up reading it...  Please let me know if there is anything we can do to support your running!

    To everyone else - be sure to check out Kelli's photo - about sums how great she is!  Women in Manufacturing - The Manufacturing Institute

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    AJ Jorgenson
    AVP, Strategic Engagement
    The Manufacturing Institute
    Washington DC
    202-637-3115
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