My mother likes to embarrass me with a story about when I was four, playing with a toy nurse’s kit in the 1970s. Squarely in the equal rights camp, my mother suggested to me that it might also be a doctor’s kit. My preschool self scoffed somewhat derisively and said, “Girls can’t be doctors.” Clearly, a notion I hadn’t gleaned from her. So where did it come from? Likely it was simply that steel-trap observation that children have for what goes on in the world around them. I probably hadn’t met any women who were doctors, or even seen any who played one on TV.
At that time, and in the decade or so after, it was still unusual to encounter women who were engineers, or who led manufacturing plants. We have some of those pioneers at New North-area companies who will be talking about leadership during a panel at the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference, planned for Oct. 21 and 22 at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay. In our cover story (page 10), we talk to those women about what led them to a manufacturing career, as well as a few women who followed them into the industry.
The best part? Being a woman in manufacturing has pretty much become a non-issue for young women. They’re doing what they like to do. But they’re still often the only or one of few females in a STEM class or working in some specialized fields. It’s not so much a gender discrimination issue, but an education issue. We’re still not keeping enough students — girls, particularly — engaged in the STEM classes overall. Our cover subject, Kelly Duel of Plexus, got interested in engineering after listening to a female engineering student who visited her class. Fincantieri/Marinette Marine Corp. CEO Jan Allman pursued an engineering career after learning that her skills in math could be used to make a good living. Learning what engineering and other science-and-math-based careers are all about is key to getting kids interested in manufacturing careers. And for girls, it doesn’t hurt to see other young women in the roles they’re considering as possibilities.
During Manufacturing First, a favorite event is the Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnerships Awards dinner. The NEW Manufacturing Alliance had 79 nominees this year, demonstrating the momentum and success behind these connections between schools and area companies. The 2015 winners in the manufacturing category are: Brighter Image, Laminations/Great Northern Corporation; Educational Partnerships, Curt G. Joa, Inc.; Leadership, Georgia-Pacific; Innovation, Waupaca Foundry, Inc.; Visionary, Paul Bartelt of The Vollrath Co.; and Youth Apprenticeship, Kohler Co. The Community Partnership award will go to Project G.R.I.L.L.
In the education category, winners are: Brighter Image, Appleton Technical Academy; Career Pathmaker Administrator, Nick Cochart of Algoma High School; Career Pathmaker Educator, Sara Greenwood and Marci Kuhn of Mishicot High School; Career Pathmaker Tech Ed Teacher, Greg Gritt of Plymouth High School; Education Innovation, Green Bay Area Public Schools; and Manufacturing Partnership, Denmark School District.
During the same awards dinner, the alliance also will be announcing the 2016 All Star Award winners. These are young people and mentors doing a great job in manufacturing, and their stories will be highlighted in a special publication that we’ll share with you in our January 2016 issue. You can get a sneak peek at the New North Summit on Dec. 2 in Oshkosh.
Come to the dinner while you’re in Green Bay for Manufacturing First. Tickets are $50 and you can get them online at manufacturingfirst.com/Awards_Dinner.html. It’s a great way to be inspired and see how your company might connect with schools to help build future manufacturing All Stars. Insight will see you there!