Shelby Anthony doesn’t consider working in the tooling and machining industry a job — it’s a profession with a future for young women like herself.
Right now, Anthony, 19, of Cochranton, is wrapping up the first year of a four-year apprentice program through the National Tooling and Machining Association as she’s employed at Starn Tool & Manufacturing.
“I like just trying to figure things out and how they work,” Anthony said about why she wants in a career in manufacturing.
Both of Anthony’s parents work at Channellock Inc. and for Anthony her interest began as as a young girl when she and her father built model car kits together. As she’s gotten older, it’s grown to working with her dad on a 1980s vintage “trucklet” (a small truck body on a car frame).
“My dad and I have this 1984 Dodge Rampage and we always work on that — tinkering and stuff like that,” she said with a smile. “I’ve always had an interest in robotics and machining — doing things with my hands.”
Her fascination with how things work caused her to go into the precision machining program at the Crawford County Career & Technical Center.
After completing her sophomore and junior years in the center’s program, she went for an interview for a part-time job at Starn in the summer of 2017 and got hired. When she returned to school in the fall of 2017 for her senior year, Anthony got into the cooperative education program and continued working at Starn.
Cooperative education combines school-based education with practical work experience, giving school credit for the job experience and paying the students at the same time.
She got hired full-time at Starn as an apprentice machinist following her graduation from the CCCTC’s precision machining program.
The NTMA-approved apprenticeship program requires successful completion of 8,000 hours of work experience plus 576 hours of classroom work over the period before the person is considered a journeyman in the tooling and machining trade.
She’s working 50 to 55 hours a week at Starn while also taking machining-related classes online through NTMA-U which is the only nationally recognized Federal Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training Department of Labor program in the U.S. NTMA-U courses also meet the requirements of National Institute for Metalworking Skills, or NIMS Certification.
“I like learning everything I can,” Anthony said. “Unlike high school where you’re forced to take classes on things you’re not interested in, these classes are things I’m actually interested in it. It’s helping me building experience and knowledge for my career.”
Her immediate goal is to complete her four-year apprenticeship so she can work to become a machine programmer in Starn’s CNC (computer numeric control) lathe department, then “maybe 10 years from now — or longer — work my way up to a supervisor position.”
What is needed now by manufacturers — both here and across the nation — are those who have the aptitude for problem solving, according to Greg Wasko, vice president and partner in Starn Tool & Manufacturing Co.
“In our experience, women are just as good as any man in the job,” Wasko said. “It’s a gender-neutral industry. It’s who is best suited to do the job.”
“The fact is, women like Shelby excel in our environment and have the same opportunities as men throughout the organization,” he said.
To keep manufacturing growing, the face of manufacturing in the future might need to become more feminine.
A study released last fall study by Deloitte, a U.S.-based international business consulting firm, and The Manufacturing Institute found the manufacturing skills gap is expected to grow from about 488,000 jobs left open currently to as many as 2.4 million manufacturing jobs going unfilled between 2018 and 2028.
“With nearly 2 million vacant new jobs expected by 2028, compounded by 2.69 million vacancies from retiring workers, the number of open positions could be greater than ever and might pose not only a major challenge for manufacturers but may threaten the vitality of the industry and our economy, “ said Paul Wellener, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. industrial products and construction leader, when that study was released in November 2018.
Another report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute done in 2017 about women in manufacturing found women constitute one of U.S. manufacturing’s largest pools of untapped talent. Women totaled about 47 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2016, but only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce, that report found.
Young women like Anthony really are an untapped resource for manufacturing industries, according to Tami Adams, executive director of the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the NTMA.
“Going through the apprentice program, Shelby’s really a role model for others,” Adams said. “We want to get more women as role models and have them share their story.”
The object is to project the idea that manufacturing is a profession, not a job. To that end, Anthony recently visited Conneaut Area High School to talk with students about what she does now and the opportunities for young women.
Anthony is the local NTMA chapter’s apprentice program, but she’s the only female out of 17 apprentices currently at various stages in the program.
“The NTMA is in support of women in manufacturing,” Adams said. “Having a role model like Shelby has given us a opportunity to get the message of manufacturing as profession in front of more girls.”
Research in the Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute report on women in manufacturing showed gender diversity benefits a manufacturing organization through improved ability to innovate, higher return on equity, and increased profitability.
“When employees believe that their organization is committed to inclusion, they report better business performance in terms of their ability to innovate,” the report found. “Organizations can also unleash the full potential of their female workforces by creating a culture where unique strengths thrive.”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.