EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — More than 150 middle and high school girls from 13 schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island traveled to the Mystic Marriott in Groton, Conn. to participate in Making It Real: Girls & Manufacturing Summit on Fri., Oct. 16.
The event, hosted by Connecticut. Dream It. Do It. and Dream It. Do It. Rhode Island, brought together leading women in manufacturing to share their personal success stories during the opening session and luncheon, in a question and answer roundtable discussion, and in an educator workshop.
Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman challenged the students to be role models for the next generation, and seek STEM-based careers that will enable them to earn as much money as men in the field. In remarks at the opening session, Wyman spoke about the challenges she faced when she ran and became the first woman in the state elected as state comptroller.
Joining Lt. Gov. Wyman in encouraging students to follow their passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) were CT Board of Regents President Mark Ojakian and CT Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell.
CT Commissioner of Labor Sharon Palmer welcomed the students during the luncheon, sharing her belief in the importance of women in STEM-based careers. During the roundtable panel session, questions focused generally on how women manage to work and succeed in the typically male-dominated manufacturing industry.
Led by moderator Sujata Srinivasan, journalist, the roundtable panelists – Michelle Allinson, vp, sales and marketing, Aerospace Alloys; Tracy Ariel, director, CT Board of Regents Advanced Manufacturing Centers; Sonya Hanson, quality control manager, A. J. Oster; Leila Ladani, associate professor of mechanical engineering, UConn; Elizabeth Villani, program manager, General Dynamics Electric Boat – shared their personal experiences in the industry, advising the girls to be confident, always do their best work, be assertive in expressing their ideas and be diligent in striving to earn the trust of their peers.
Keynote speaker Leslie Taito, senior vice president of new business development at Hope Global, told the young girls that in recruiting for her company, she looks for creative, inquisitive people who seek out challenges, like to know how things are made, and have a “yes, we can” attitude.
She related her personal journey from a small town where her job was to feed the farm animals every morning to her position as a senior leader at Hope Global, an international manufacturing company, based in Cumberland, Rhode Island, that was founded more than 130 years ago.
The students joined in three workshops that gave them a sense of what working in a manufacturing company would be like. Using the K’Nex toy construction system, students produced a carnival ride to meet building specifications. Teams were divided into groups similar to a manufacturing company – purchasing, production, quality control – and learned how each “department” is critical to the process.
In the Ice Cream Stick factory workshop, problem-solving skills were challenged as the student teams had to customize ice cream sticks and deliver them on time and within budget to customers.
Creativity, business strategy and building skills were tested in the Skyscraper workshop where the task was to build the tallest possible “skyscraper” out of different length straws. The girls had a set budget for “purchasing” the straws and the task had to be completed within a set timeframe.
Before the opening session, arriving students had a chance to talk with exhibitors to learn more about the manufacturing field. Exhibits included a robot, 3D printing, and a “hover craft” created by the UConn Student Engineering Ambassadors.
For educators, the Connecticut Girls Collaborative presented an educator workshop on how to incorporate female role models in the classroom to help prepare the 21st century STEM workforce.
“Manufacturing is facing a skills gap, and part of that is the underrepresentation of women in the industry,” said Susan Palisano, director of education & workforce development, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc., (CCAT), which licenses and directs Connecticut. Dream It. Do It. “Sparking interest in future careers among girls is a priority to assure that the region’s manufacturers can attract, retain and advance women in skilled positions.”
“Young women today want not only a great job but a meaningful career,” said Bill McCourt, executive director of Rhode Island Manufacturers Association (RIMA), which licenses and leads Dream It. Do It. Rhode Island. “Through events like the Summit, Rhode Island and Connecticut manufacturers are joining together as never before to speak with one voice about opportunities within the industry.
Connecticut. Dream It. Do It. and Dream It. Do It. Rhode Island are part of The Manufacturing Institute’s nationwide campaign to create a positive image of manufacturing today, develop an awareness of rewarding manufacturing careers, and enhance both the Connecticut and Rhode Island future manufacturing workforce pipelines.