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Women in Manufacturing: “Live the Life You Dream”

Sometimes careers call to us at a young age. We’re presented with an opportunity or a mentor and suddenly our path is clear. Other times, it takes a few tries to find where we really belong. That was the case for Tara Beck, who worked in multiple fields including healthcare, supply chain operations, non-profit fundraising, college athletics, and talent acquisition before she finally found her fit in manufacturing.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since Beck, Senior Manager of Skilled Workforce Development for Ingersoll Rand, got her start in manufacturing “by accident,” as she puts it. “I was in the retail sector looking for a career change and found my dream job at Ingersoll Rand.” It wasn’t long before Beck developed a genuine sense of pride for her industry and for the company in which she works.

One thing the Cabarrus EDC knows for sure is that manufacturing companies like Ingersoll Rand, Corning Inc., Legrand, and so many others are invested in their workforce—regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. If you have the skills, you can do the job. Thanks to their obvious commitment to workforce development, Ingersoll Rand has not only been the perfect fit for Beck but has also already influenced the next generation of talented young women.

Back in October 2019, the company hosted 32 girls (ages 4 to 12) at its Charlotte plant. This was a perfect opportunity to encourage young girls to consider careers in STEM-related professions from a young age. Engaging with science and technology that is necessary to succeed in modern manufacturing is the first step. Taking those interests and developing them through primary and secondary school is the next one.

“Career exploration in high school is imperative. By exposing students to potential careers at an early age, we are developing a strong talent pipeline of our future workforce. Our local school systems are doing a phenomenal job at developing a skilled workforce and a ready talent pipeline for any employer who chooses to locate and grow their business in Cabarrus County.” Shanell Varner, Economic Development Coordinator

These opportunities are incredible for individuals who feel called to their careers at the start. Though, as established by Tara Beck’s journey, this isn’t always the case. And that’s okay.

Career transitions are common, and most of the skills necessary for success in manufacturing happen to be transferable according to Beck. The most important skill to have, in her opinion, is communication: “Like all industries, there are great days and there are some not-so-great days. If you can communicate well, work well with others, and continue to drive forward in the face of adversity, you will be successful.” So, if it’s so easy to transfer skills over to manufacturing, why aren’t more people doing it?

“I personally believe women likely have some of the same misconceptions about working in manufacturing as most men,” says Beck. “Manufacturing is perceived as dark, dirty, and dangerous, but in the modern age, manufacturing is high tech, high pay, and high skill. There are many different jobs in manufacturing beyond working on an assembly line.” Luckily for this industry, there are organizations such as Women in Manufacturing (WiM), as well as initiatives like Go Bold, that have committed themselves to changing that perception.

Not only does WiM actively work to change that public perception, but it also provides women currently working in the industry with a great opportunity to connect with other strong, smart, and creative women—one of them being Beck. Through WiM, she found her “work tribe,” as she puts it, which has made her career even more meaningful and exciting. “It’s fun to share my experiences with others who truly understand the industry,” she explains.

One of the most important aspects of a career is feeling like you belong. Many women believe that manufacturing is not a place where they can find that feeling. For Tara Beck, it was the only place. Whether you knew it back in grade school or you’re looking to make a career change, if you are currently considering a career in manufacturing, Beck has one key piece of advice for you: “Live the life you dream.” Take the time to network with other women already working in manufacturing, herself included. Pick a few companies that interest you and reach out. Connect through WiM, through LinkedIn, through the Cabarrus EDC. “I guarantee they will take the time to answer your questions and share their personal stories,” says Beck. If this is the career you want, go for it. If you’re not totally sure yet, go for it. There is never any harm in trying, and who knows… You just might find your fit.

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