How Women can Help Solve Manufacturing’s Talent Crisis

While manufacturers cite talent as a top driver of performance and competitiveness, they continue to face challenges in recruiting and retaining the best employees.

Supporting educational initiatives, creating partnerships with schools and changing the perception of manufacturing jobs can help. But a new report says looking to the female labor pool could be one of the biggest sources of untapped talent.

The Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte and APICS recently released a study which surveyed 20 manufacturing executives and more than 600 women working in the manufacturing industry. It gathered insights on how companies can recruit and retain advanced talented women in manufacturing and found women currently working in manufacturing are overwhelmingly upbeat about the industry. Seventy percent said they would stay in manufacturing if they were starting their career today.

Respondents to the survey said some of the most important employment characteristics include opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments, good pay, and a strong work-life balance. Other things female manufacturing workers said they desired were formal and informal mentorship programs, flexible work schedules, and a visibility of female leaders serving as role models.

“Organizations that make recruitment, retention and advancement of women a strategic priority can bring diverse decision-making perspectives, drive innovation and creative solutions that can achieve overall better business performance.”

 

Trina Huelsman, vice chairman, co-author of the research at Deloitte & Touche LLP, said the industry is missing out on a big resource of talent that could close the immediate skills gap and help increase America’s competitiveness in the global manufacturing landscape. She said organizations can “reap big rewards” by unleashing the potential of women in the industry.

“Organizations that make recruitment, retention and advancement of women a strategic priority can bring diverse decision-making perspectives, drive innovation and creative solutions that can achieve overall better business performance,” Huelsman said.

Yet to really attract female workers, manufacturers may have to adjust some of their policies. Much like younger workers, women generally seek more flexible work opportunities that include flexible hours and more time off.

The study also revealed that recognition can have a significant impact on promoting opportunities for women in manufacturing. The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) initiative has honored more than 540 women in the past four years. Seventy five percent of those surveyed said being recognized helped raise the visibility of opportunities for women in the industry.

AJ Jorgenson, the AVP of Strategic Engagement at The Manufacturing Institute and director of the STEP program, feels women can bring a fresh perspective to many roles, from engineering to design and marketing. “The future of manufacturing relies on women. And, as an industry, it is our responsibility to demonstrate our commitment to building the workforce of tomorrow,” Jorgenson said.

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Craig Guillot
Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.

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