One of the answers to the skills gap and the lack of qualified engineers in U.S. industry could be getting the other half of the nation’s potential workers in play. Just about 11% of the working engineers in the U.S. are women. If there were as many female engineers as there are male engineers, we wouldn’t have a shortage.
But women are much less likely to major in engineering or any technical field than men are, and less likely to look for jobs in manufacturing. Rexroth recently held a “Girls Day” at six German locations, introducing 140 girls to drive and control technology.
At the headquarters, there were 35 female students from age 10 to age 17 checking out apprenticeship jobs from foundry to mechatronics.
The object of the special day was to increase interest in technical jobs among young women by making them aware of the job opportunities, as well as the sheer coolness of the field. Women are underrepresented in tech fields in Germany, and in educational programs in STEM fields. The list of Top 10 favorite job paths for female students in Germany does not contain a single technical career. Rexroth’s apprenticeship programs typically show the same 10 or 11% female graduates.
The annual Girls Day program is designed to raise awareness. Girls from schools across Germany visited Rexroth facilities and had the opportunity to meet and talk with apprentices.They also got the chance to learn and practice skills such as drilling and soldering.
The 140 young students who got hands-on experience and the chance to learn about jobs in motion control — from design to production — may go on to study and work in tech fields. But the consciousness raising may go further than that. Parents and school counselors need to become more aware of the opportunities for female as well as male students in industrial manufacturing. And male workers get the opportunity to see the enthusiasm of female students for their work.