SOURCE: North East Regional Employment and Training Association

North East Regional Employment and Training Association

North East Regional Employment and Training Association

April 12, 2016 11:49 ET

NERETA Manufacturing Summit Will Explore Why Women Make Up 47 Percent Labor Force, but Only 27 Percent of Manufacturing Workforce

Women Represent an Excellent Potential Resource for Growing the Manufacturing Workforce; The NERETA Summit Being Held in Clinton, NJ, April 27-29, Will Teach Local Leadership (Workforce Development, Economic Development and Higher Education Professionals), How to Develop a Talent Pipeline to Serve Growth Needs of Manufacturing in Their Regions (

CLINTON, NJ --(Marketwired - April 12, 2016) - US manufacturing growth for the future will depend upon having capable workers. Women could be the answer to growing that Talent Pipeline, but what is it that has kept women from applying for these kinds of jobs in the past? Wage gap? Skills gap? …or is it something else? 

An interesting conversation with my sister-in-law Pamela LaRose, a life-long manufacturing worker, was revealing! I asked her, "Would you recommend a manufacturing career to a younger woman?" Pamela answered, "No, honestly I would not. Not unless she had gone to college first or had a mentor at the company to help guide her career path. It is the kind of job where you can get stuck without a clear goal toward getting into management…and management is almost exclusively men."

Pamela explained further, "I have worked in both union and non-union companies. In non-union companies, management does not want you to discuss your pay with other workers. That sets up workers to distrust each other. In union shops, you know what full rate is and can trust that you are being paid fairly, which is much better for worker morale. But, where I have worked all of the 'men's jobs' paid more. I guess management determined that those jobs were harder, but I question that. The women's jobs required much more dexterity and due to the repetitive motions of the women's jobs, the women ended up with physical health issues like carpal tunnel, while the men did not end up with health problems from their jobs. So, which body doing which type of work was worth more money? I guess since it was men in management and they made the decisions, they decided the men's work was worth more."

At almost 48 years old, Pamela LaRose has worked in manufacturing for 28 years. She began her career at Albany International (AI), a company that produced felt for the paper industry.

She continued, "When I started in manufacturing, I worked for a union company. But after twenty plus years working for them, they closed up here in the US and went overseas to find cheaper labor. That left me and a lot of other workers going back to starting over…most in non-union shops, where the pay is much lower."

Her first job in manufacturing after AI closed paid around $10.00 per hour. She began at her current company as a temp worker for two years before being brought on as a full-time employee. She has been working for them a total of four years making a high tech products, but makes less than $15.00 per hour, which is what minimum wage should be had it kept up with the rate of inflation since the 1970's.

"I am proud of the skills I have learned and very proud that the quality of my work is depended on for company success. But I guess it comes down to trust," she concluded. "I think more women would work in manufacturing if they could trust that they were being paid a fair wage compared to the men, that there was truly a chance for them to get into management, and that the job would not leave them high and dry when they reach middle age."

This is exactly the kind of honest dialogue that needs to take place with employers if we are serious about helping them find workers. Unions now represent only about 5% of the nation's workers -- down from 35% representation in the 1970's. That has had an effect on workers psyche. Who now speaks for the workers' rights?

The North East Regional Employment and Training Association (NERETA) is hosting a national Summit in Clinton, NJ, April 27-29 (, and an eight month post conference course to teach workforce development, economic development and higher education professionals how to align their services to address the needs of manufacturing employers. But the Summit is also about engaging employers so that everyone understands fully what the issues are.

"Collaboration at the local level between workforce development, economic development and higher education does not happen easily because they each have very different missions, very different stakeholders and honestly do not understand each other very well," said Colleen LaRose, President and CEO of NERETA. "But NERETA is presenting this Summit to bring all of these entities together in a cross-training platform to help them understand one another and the issues better so that they can effectively dialogue with employers together as a team about what it will take to grow and sustain the economy in their region."

Regions from around the country are forming teams of at least four people to attend the Summit. Recommended team participants are:

  • A workforce development representative
  • An economic development representative
  • A higher education representative
  • And a career counselor

but anyone interested is welcome to register to attend.

"We are thrilled to see the excitement building around this event and conference course," said LaRose. "We already have teams attending from Texas, Michigan, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Virginia and Pennsylvania. We have even had inquiries from other countries that plan to send teams to this Summit!"

As Amy Liu, Vice President and Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution stated, "This kind of economic development is harder work. It involves high-level business and public engagement…It requires…finding common language to build a shared future. The reward is…transformative, long-term change….It makes the skills and education of workers …essential ingredients to economic competitiveness, not simply a social agenda."

Proposed bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the Made In America Manufacturing Communities Act, ( introduced on February 9, 2016 concurs with the thoughts of LaRose and Liu on this topic. This legislation would create a permanent program that designates local regions as 'Manufacturing Communities,' which would give them priority to receive federal economic development funding for the purpose of investing in regional manufacturing. But, to earn the designation of 'Manufacturing Community,' regions would have to demonstrate the significance of manufacturing already present in their region and develop strategies to use the designation in making investments in six areas:

1. Workforce and training;
2. Advanced research;
3. Infrastructure and site development;
4. Supply chain support;
5. Trade and international investment; and
6. Operational improvement and capital access.

"NERETA is excited that the proposed Manufacturing Communities Act coincides with the timing of NERETA's Manufacturing Summit! The work of the NERETA Summit will clearly help regions prepare to become Manufacturing Communities. We agree with Amy Liu," said LaRose. "The reward of finding a common language to build a shared future truly is transformative and long-term change."

For more information about the NERETA Summit, go to or call NERETA at (908) 995-7718. Individuals and teams are welcome to attend the NERETA Summit.

Editor's note:

The North East Regional Employment and Training Association ( connects workforce investment boards and their stakeholders in the northeastern US to improve communication and collaboration of employment and training initiatives and improve local economies. NERETA also provides professional development opportunities for workforce development and economic development professionals nationally through webinars, seminars, and conferences.

Image Available:

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Colleen LaRose
    President and CEO
    North East Regional Employment and Training Association (NERETA)
    P (908) 995-7718
    Twitter: @neretaorg