LOGANSPORT, Ind. — Although nearly half of those in the nation’s workforce are women, just 27 percent of those working in manufacturing are, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Joe Veter thinks that’s a shame.

Veter is the precision machining instructor at the Logansport High School’s Century Career Center and the man who helped create the Girls in Manufacturing Summit.

“It’s my fault,” he said, laughing. “I was in a leadership development program at Purdue University, and one of my goals in the program was to recruit non-traditional students to these types of manufacturing areas. And the non-traditional ones in this case are young girls.”

Also partnering with Ivy Tech, the manufacturing summit is now in its second year. It introduces eighth to 12th-grade girls to local women who have made manufacturing a career. This year’s panel included Sharon Ohman, a quality manager at Small Parts; Cathy Fawcett, an industrial engineer at A. Raymond Tinnerman; Elizabeth Fink, a service center manager at Applied Industrial Technologies; Stephanie Wells, a lobbyist for Indiana Manufacturers Association; Jo Ellen Ironmonger, owner of Ironmonger Spring; and Dr. Deanna McMillan, an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech with a background in engineering.

The panel also included two LHS students who are currently taking classes at the Century Career Center.

The panel of women addressed the young girls for about an hour Saturday, sharing everything from insights about the manufacturing sector to mentors that helped them along the way. They also offered some advice for breaking into manufacturing as a woman.

Wells, the lobbyist, told the students that she took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, in high school and scored high on the mechanical portion of the test.

“They told me it must have been a fluke,” she said. “I was told by a lot of people that girls don’t do math. Girls don’t do science. Girls don’t work with their hands. I think if I heard what you get to hear now when I was in the eighth grade, my life would have been a lot different.”

McMillan, now a professor, was in the first generation in her family to go to college. She told the girls that growing up in New York City, she thought an engineer was someone who drove a train. Now, multiple doctorates later, McMillan said it’s about fighting for what you want to achieve.

“Never let someone tell you you can’t do something,” she told the crowd. “I’ve been told numerous times before and even after my degrees that I couldn’t do it. It just made me fight harder. It takes extra effort to succeed in an area where you have no role models. Take advantage of every opportunity.”

A few years ago, local quality manager Ohman attended a women in engineering day at Purdue University, and she said the experience changed her life. She went on to major in mechanical engineering at Purdue and mentioned that women in engineering day in West Lafayette as she talked with the group of girls.

“Whenever you can, reach out to other people and build your networks,” she said. “And it’s about perseverance. If you want to do something, stick with it. Don’t let people say manufacturing is a male dominated profession. Women can do it, too.”

For Fink, manager at a service center, success is about persistence.

“I was in a male-dominated degree (mechanical engineering) at Purdue and then went into a male-dominated field,” she said. “I worked hard and never stopped. I think where you guys are really lucky is that you have this group of women up here to help you.”

Fawcett graduated with a degree in industrial engineering from Purdue, and she said out of 130 students in her graduating class, she was one of just five women. She said she heard how manufacturing was a man’s profession, but she didn’t let that bother her, and she said she wanted the girls in attendance to not be bothered by it either.

“I want them to walk away from today with the ability to dream and not be held back by preconceived notions,” she said. “Stretch beyond that.”

But perhaps some of the strongest pieces of advice for the teenage girls in attendance came from their own peers.

“I’m the only girl in my class,” Haley Bushaw said, “and I’m at the top of it. Find what you love to do and do it. Once you’ve done that, nothing can stop you from doing what you want.”

After the panel discussion concluded, it was time to experience manufacturing firsthand, as each girl was given hands-on opportunities to experiment in the fields of welding, engineering and precision machining.

And for one girl in particular, the summit was more than just an opportunity.

“It makes me feel empowered,” Elizabeth Ebeltoft, 15, said, “because you know there are no limits.”

Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune, http://bit.ly/2e54a5R

Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune.