She had a history of domestic abuse, spent too many months couch surfing, depending on friends to give her shelter; working dead-end jobs if at all.  

Fast-forward one year, and she is helping to build racecars and recently moved into a new home she purchased. Her young daughter now has a real place to call home.

They were a young couple with two children.  No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get ahead.  Hardly a month went by they didn’t need some help from social service agencies.  Fast-forward 12 weeks, and they both had employment offers from Lockheed Martin with a full range of benefits, from day one, including health insurance and generous vacation time.  Most of all, they had a measure of security and a promising future if they worked just as hard as they already have been.

The mothers in these two stories have a few things in common.  They were not satisfied with the direction of their lives.  They were driven to make a big change and were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to do so.  Sacrifices, such as adding school to current work and families responsibilities, including a strong commitment to long hours of accompanying study time.  It is not a cakewalk, but the good news is these women didn’t have to commute far for instruction.  Valencia College has an Advanced Manufacturing Center right here in Osceola County.

Women make up nearly half of the working population (47.5 percent), yet they remain underrepresented in the manufacturing industry. Historically, men have held the majority of jobs in this high wage industry. Since 1970, women’s share of employment in manufacturing has remained relatively constant, peaking at 33.2 percent in 1990 before declining to 29.0 percent in 2016.

According to Manufacturing and Technology Industry Week Magazine, the many challenges facing the manufacturing sector include recruiting, retaining and advancing top talent. However, manufacturing needs leaders who will create the future and inspire innovation.

Research shows that women are ideally suited for this type of leadership. The data and research related to women in manufacturing create a compelling business case for having more women in manufacturing leadership.  The manufacturing field doesn’t just need people; more specifically, it needs women.

Manufacturing executives around the world rank talent the top driver of manufacturing competitiveness, but at the same time, the U.S. manufacturing industry faces an estimated 2 million-worker shortfall over the next decade. Women can be a solution to the industry’s skills gap problem through increased visibility for female leaders, flexible work practices and other important industry-wide changes.  

Women bring a fresh perspective to the diverse and fulfilling roles the industry has to offer. There are vast career opportunities available – from engineering to design and everywhere in between. There’s a place for everyone in this industry and a college degree is not a prerequisite.  Certification courses offered locally can pave the way for entry-level positions in any number of promising careers.  

Education options are not just limited to Valencia College.  oTech has a varied array of options as well.  So many promising careers start with certifications and interest levels are likely matched with education opportunities likely to improve income potential. The key to success is short-term sacrifice in order to yield long-term reward.

Nationally, median earnings for female manufacturing industry workers were higher ($35,158) than that of women in all industries ($30,348). This is good news for the high percentage of single mom households in Osceola County.

Project OPEN is a program of Community Vision that opened the door of opportunity to the individuals referenced in the opening paragraphs and 256 others.  We are currently recruiting a cohort for Electronic Board Assembly (EBA) at Valencia’s Advanced Manufacturing, which starts April 22.  Class size is limited. Candidates are vetted and must be income qualified to receive any financial assistance.  Email Maritza malgarin@communityvision.org for additional information.  Celebrate Women in Manufacturing Month by changing your life.

Donna Sines is the executive director of Community Vision in Osceola County.