By: Janice Urbanik
So, we’ve all heard of barn raising, and certainly hell raising, but maybe not “floor” raising. Well, in this month’s blog, that is exactly what we are going to talk about. Quick question – what portion of our regional manufacturing workforce do you think is made up of women? 5%? 20%? 50%? Keep reading to learn the answer and to learn about a new initiative to get more women into manufacturing careers. Hint… it’s called “Raise the Floor”…
Rosie the Riveter Redux?
During World War II, women were called into manufacturing in record numbers to build planes and bombs and to fill the positions left open by men who were shipped off to war – enter Rosie the Riveters and Wendy the Welders. Women viewed this work as their patriotic duty and as a way to provide for their families, even though they were paid less than the men still employed in the factories. When the war ended and the soldiers returned, the women left these jobs to allow the men to be re-employed and to take care of their families. While this era in our history certainly elevated the discussion about what types of jobs were suited for women, female participation in manufacturing has never again reached the levels during the war.
In fact, in our region, only 7-10% of the manufacturing workforce is female. At the same time, local manufacturers are very vocal about their inability to find skilled workers to fill the open positions that they have. In northern Kentucky, there are 680 manufacturing positions open right now and that number is expected to grow to over 6,000 by 2020. When you look at our entire region, the 2020 number grows to nearly 18,000 open positions! If current stats hold, that means that up to 1,800 women could get good paying jobs in manufacturing in the next few years!
But what if we could get to 50% representation by women – think about that – what if 9,000 women in our region got a good job and career in manufacturing in the next 10 years!? What would that do to our regional economy? What products and services would these women purchase in quantities that they have never done before? How would their families benefit? The Cabinet for Economic Development in Kentucky estimated that EACH open manufacturing position represents nearly $206,000 in ANNUAL economic impact and an additional $14,000 in ANNUAL tax income. If those numbers hold true for our region, then 9,000 women in manufacturing jobs would deliver $1.8 BILLION in economic impact – ANNUALLY! That is enough to buy 51,000 Toyota Camrys or 180,000 years of tuition at UC or 24,000,000 pairs of skinny jeans! Heck, that might even buy part of a new Brent Spence bridge!
So, what is Raise the Floor? Raise the Floor is an initiative “for women by women” that started a few months ago to help more women get into these manufacturing careers. Click here for a link to one of the stories covering the announcement of the program: http://bit.ly/17MrSNl
The program includes four main pillars:
• Awareness: Promoting the initiative to students and the public.
• Training: Overseeing the design and delivery of training to ensure that students are ready to step into jobs that manufacturers need filled.
• Support: Helping women get hired and be effective in their new jobs.
• Process: Working to maintain momentum through finding funding and creating new programming.
Why “Raise the Floor”
You might be wondering… why is the program called Raise the Floor? I first heard that expression a few years ago from Steve Dawson who is with PHI – the Paraprofessional Healthcare Initiative, www.phinational.org. From their website, “PHI works to improve the lives of people who need home or residential care—by improving the lives of the workers who provide that care”. Their point is… when you are elderly or have special needs and are at your most vulnerable, wouldn’t you want the people who come to your home to help you be 100% focused on your needs and not worrying about how they are going to make ends meet? By “raising the floor” of the wages and working conditions of these direct care workers, the care that our most vulnerable receive will improve.
When you think about the women in our community who need to provide for their families, they need jobs that provide a livable wage, benefits, and good working conditions. All of which are provided by our regional manufacturing industry.
Just like 70 years ago during WWII, we need women to fill these manufacturing jobs – for our regional economic vitality and for their own economic self-sufficiency.
Come on ladies – get on your hard hats and work boots – we’ve got cars and jet engines to build!
Click here to hear Carissa Schutzman (Gateway Dean of Workforce Solutions), Vanessa Freytag (Executive Director of The Women's Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation), and Laura Lyons (President of ATech Training) discuss the initiative.