Skilled Women Get STEM Jobs: Recruiting and Engaging Female Students

Skilled worker shortages and lack of gender diversity in technician level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are state, national, and international problems. Having more women in the STEM workforce will help narrow the male-female wage gap and help reduce workforce shortages. This project at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology entitled Skilled Women Get STEM Jobs is designed to enable female students to prepare for careers in high demand, typically male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This project will contribute to the body of evidence about effective ways for high schools, community colleges, and industries to develop STEM pipelines that encourage young women to enter typically male-dominated technical careers. The project will have an impact not only on the large area served by the college, but also nationally, by disseminating information about successful recruiting and retention activities to encourage similar initiatives at other colleges and in industry groups. 

The project will focus on three college technician programs that are vital to the region and the nation: (a) Machine Tool & Computer Aided Manufacturing that educates technicians for jobs as machinists, tool and die makers, and computer numerically controlled operators and programmers; (b) Electrical Technology that educates technicians for the construction industry as electricians, the manufacturing industry as industrial electricians, and the utility industry as power generation and distribution technicians; and (c) Water & Environmental Technology Program that educates technicians for water and wastewater treatment at municipal and private facilities, and for food processing, paper production, waste-to-energy, and environmental companies. The project will have an especially strong impact on water technology outreach initiatives as the college offers the only Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) approved associate degree program. The program will communicate directly and regularly with the PA DEP training section and the Pennsylvania Water Environment Association. National dissemination will be through the Water Environment Federation. To strengthen the three aforementioned technician programs, the project will build a high school to college pipeline to (a) encourage female high school students to enroll in college programs that offer solid job prospects, (b) engage the enrolled students through an informal group mentoring program and internship opportunities, and (c) facilitate their entry into the workforce by ensuring their familiarity with industries and job opportunities. Recruitment activities target females at 11 high schools through industry tours, college tours, and hands on cross disciplinary immersion workshops that develop a product designed by the participants to solve a local environmental problem. While research indicates that one-on-one mentoring using female role models works, this strategy will not bring results in industries or college programs that are virtually devoid of women. The project will test a novel approach to see if contact with female technicians, industry tours, and hands-on cross-disciplinary workshops are promising practices for attracting female high school students into three targeted STEM fields. It will also develop and test a replicable model for such workshops and a comprehensive evaluation will help determine the most effective strategies. Within three years, female enrollment will increase from 6% college-wide to 20% in the three targeted programs, and female students in those programs will be retained at the same high rate as males.

ATE Award Metadata

Award Number
Funding Status
ATE Start Date
September 1st, 2016
ATE Expiration Date
August 31st, 2021
ATE Principal Investigator
Katie Surra
Primary Institution
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
Record Type
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