4-H: Encouraging girls to explore careers in manufacturing

4-H Youth Development can help women explore a job or career in manufacturing, a field in which women are largely underrepresented.

According to the South Bend Tribune, only about 30 percent of today’s manufacturing workforce in America is women. Manufacturing falls under the Michigan Department of Education’s Career Pathway for Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology. As a non-traditional career field for women with opportunities available, Michigan 4-H staff and volunteers can encourage 4-H members to use 4-H experiences to explore the world of engineering, manufacturing and industrial technology through Michigan 4-H science and technology programming.

The Michigan 4-H science and technology program area cuts across all program and project areas. In addition to traditional animal and plant science, it includes specific 4-H projects such as aerospace, computers, small engines, electricity, electronics, astronomy and robotics. Projects related to woodworking, furniture making and welding are also a part of science and technology. Many of these project and program experiences involve working with your hands and thinking through a process, along with asking “how” and “why” something works.

Imagine learning how to build a bookcase, change a tire and check the oil on the family car and lawn mower. In Berrien County, female 4-H members built woodworking projects and entered welding projects for exhibition. Mix these learned skills with career exploration and planning and you might have the making of a non-traditional job or career. A person could even start their own business related to manufacturing.

As we help young people explore possible job and career interests, everyone should be encouraged to think about:

  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Interests and things they enjoy doing
  • Explore and research options
  • Setting some goals and making a plan

There are a wealth of educational resources related to career exploration and workforce preparation on the Michigan 4-H web site. Michigan 4-H also has pre-college programs through the Spartan Youth Programs at Michigan State University to help young people learn even more.

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