Can Women Erase the Skills Gap?


The Skills Gap — the chasm between the number of qualified workers needed in U.S. manufacturing and the number available — is a source of frustration for many manufacturers. But the greatest need is not for engineers who can handle the newest Industry 4.0 machinery and communications.

The greatest need, according to a study from Industry Week, is for machinists and welders. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has a suggestion for manufacturers who need these workers right now, too: hire women.

The Institute analyzed the specific requirements of the jobs manufacturers are trying to fill right now, and matched them up with jobs which already are often filled by women.

Packaging and filling machine operators require many of the same skills as welders, for example, and they work in much the same environment. But welders, most of whom are male, make a lot more money than packaging and filling machine operators. Training those women as welders would give them a step up while filling the high-demand jobs.

In fact, the researchers found that many of the jobs manufacturers need most share skills, level of responsibility, and types of training with jobs like cooking and electronic assembly, jobs often done by women. But women don’t usually apply for these jobs, in part because they don’t know exactly what a machinist does. And employers fail to recruit women, sometimes because they don’t even think of doing so… and sometimes because they believe that manufacturing jobs require more physical strength than most women have.

They usually don’t.

Manufacturers who are willing to do some initial training — and increasingly manufacturers need to have that willingness — may be able to solve their hiring problems by looking for female employees.

Beyond those hiring problems are plenty of additional benefits. Putting women into jobs paying $35,000 or more a year would lift many families out of poverty without requiring moms to work longer hours than they currently do. Increasing the percentage of women working in advanced manufacturing jobs (it’s currently only about 7%) would reduce the wage gap without creating any new government regulations.

As you think about bringing more women into your workforce, think of us for your Rexroth electric drive and control support needs. Calling us takes no more effort than calling your local third party repair shop, but it’s a much better choice.

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