The awards ceremony was held on February 6 and it was phenomenal to witness. The excitement and energy in the room was palpable.

What has been the overall response to this STEP Awards program?

We have seen an outpouring of support from manufacturers. As previously mentioned, we had 160 honorees this year and more than 550 attendees came to the awards ceremony. And that means that these manufacturing companies paid for these women to come out and participate in these day-long activities. That shows you how much support and encouragement these manufacturers are giving these women. Of the 160 honorees, there were 110 companies represented.

How has The Manufacturing Institute used this awards program to boost the public’s perception of careers in manufacturing?

One of the challenges that the manufacturing industry faces is this misperception of manufacturing. Today’s manufacturing is not like your grandfather’s manufacturing; clean suits are as common as hard hats. One of the ways to show that is to get these honorees to tell their own stories. For example, we created a profile for every single honoree to show where they came from and what their passion is. The night of the awards ceremony, we heard from two honorees. Telling their stories is how you really get people engaged and looking at the industry in a different light.

Why is continual education so important to The Manufacturing Institute?

Manufacturing is changing so fast with advanced technology. It changes day in and day out. The challenges you face in the industry today could be completely different tomorrow. We have to encourage lifelong learning. The skillsets for a manufacturer today are higher than they were 50 years ago. Getting individuals certified and continuing to be educated is a key component of a strong manufacturing workforce.