Increasing Women in Engineering and Industrial Technologies Programs
Manufacturing in the United States is expanding regionally and nationally at the same time that low-skill, labor-intensive manufacturing jobs are being replaced by highly technical, automated processes. To meet this increased demand for highly skilled manufacturing technicians, community college manufacturing programs must evolve to meet these changing industry environments and attract a wide diversity of students. Women have traditionally been greatly underrepresented in manufacturing careers, but they represent the largest pool of untapped talent needed to address the manufacturing skills gap threatening America. Working collaboratively with industry partners and building on research findings that identified reasons why many women are not interested in manufacturing careers, this project at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC) in North Carolina will create the Women in Engineering and Industrial Technologies (WE IT) program. The program will utilize the strong partnership between the college, three K-12 school districts, and the more than 35 partner employers of the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute to develop a replicable model to increase interest among women in engineering and industrial technology programs. It has been informed by and builds on effective practices designed to increase of involvement of women that include, but are not limited to, the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science (IWITTS), National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), the Dream It, Do It campaign launched by the Manufacturing Institute, and the Asheville Buncombe Community College ATE Women in Technology program. Program evaluation will monitor progress and determine the most effective practices. Project results will be disseminated through TeachingTechnicians.org, NC-NET (an online source for the 58 community colleges in NC), and presentations at regional and national conferences.
To accomplish the goal of increasing enrollment of women in college engineering and industrial technology programs, the project will focus on changing perceptions of both potential students and career influencers (i.e. parents, counselors, advisors, teachers, faculty and administrators). Career influencers will take part in industry tours and Taste of Industry events held on the College campus, and a combination of faculty and staff will present to the district-wide Parent-Teachers Association (PTA). Potential students will be targeted through a variety of programs including an Industry Speaks series for high school students and an internal awareness campaign focused on current Rowan-Cabarrus students. Each semester at least 15 sections of college English will include exploration of technical careers. The second goal of the project is to increase completion rates among women in these programs. Women enrolled in these programs will have the opportunity to be WE IT Ambassadors, participate in the WE IT Navigators group, and have open lab events. The WE IT program will also provide increased partnerships and communication networks between faculty/staff, students, parents, administrators and industry allowing this program to be institutionalized by leveraging resources available to each partner. The three K-12 school districts play a vital role in the program, and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director from each district is committed to sustained, active participation.