In February 2015, the Brookings Institution released the report, "America's Advanced Industries: What they are, where they are, and why they matter." 

The authors of the report identified 50 industries that constitute the advanced industries sector, of which 35 are related to manufacturing, 12 to services and three to energy. The report states, "As of 2013, the nation’s 50 advanced industries…employed 12.3 million U.S. workers. That amounts to about 9% of total U.S. employment. And yet, even with this modest employment base, U.S. advanced industries produce $2.7 trillion in value added annually—17% of all U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)."

Another benefit of these advanced industries is: "In 2013, the average advanced industries worker earned $90,000 in total compensation, nearly twice as much as the average worker outside of the sector. Over time, absolute earnings in advanced industries grew by 63% from 1975 to 2013, after adjusting for inflation."

One of the report's recommendations for our nation's private and public sector was: "Recharge the skills pipeline." While everyone agrees that filling the pipeline at an early age is essential to increasing the numbers, achieving this goal has been frustrating.

A number of organizations have been working to fill the skills pipeline by developing the next generation of manufacturing workers. For many years, the SME Education Foundation has been committed to advancing the manufacturing industry and stimulating the interest of youth in STEM education and manufacturing careers. "The Foundation invests in students through a broad array of scholarship programs and makes a direct impact on manufacturing education through their Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) program. PRIME provides high school students with opportunities to pursue rewarding careers as engineers and technologists; this includes vocations involving mechatronics, welding, CNC programming, robotics and much more." 

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) “Dream It. Do It” program has helped to expose our youth to the modern manufacturing environment and change the image of manufacturing to one that is “cool” and full of exciting career opportunities.

These newer programs build on the work of the non-profit organization, Project Lead The Way, which has been working since 1997 to promote STEM curriculum for middle and high school students during the school year, along with their Gateway Academy, which is a one- or two-week day camp for 6th-8th graders that includes team-building exercises, individual and team projects, and utilizes the latest technology to solve problems.

However, none of the above programs are geared specifically to girls, and it is an even bigger challenge to attract girls and young women to technical careers. Studies have shown that when role models and mentors are provided to girls, they are more likely to follow a similar career path.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the Playbook for Teens, created by Cari Lyn Vinci and Carleen MacKay, which is available in print and digital format at Amazon. In the Playbook, girls can meet fascinating women in STE@M (the “@” stands for “art”) and follow the “plays” of successful young women to help them create their own “Dream Career.” At the end of each story, the Playbook role models share heart-felt advice for girls to apply to their career path. Then, questions are asked of the reader to help them take the first step to writing their own Playbook. The Playbook is dedicated to the smart, talented teenage girls who will become the future business owners and leaders in STE@M industries. The Playbook can be used as a tool for organization and corporate partners to solve their future talent pool problems.

I recently reconnected with Vinci and interviewed her about why she created the Playbook for Teens and what has happened since 2014.

Why did you create the Playbook?

"When I was a teenager, I never dreamed that I would do some of the work I have done and that I would be able to be successful in several different careers. A common thread in my previous careers was that I spent more than 20 years hiring and writing training programs to help employees reach their goals. My previous business was helping adults figure out their next career, and if they wanted to be a business owner, helping them buy a franchise. This led me to wanting to help students understand that what they study in school and the education they get after high school will shape their choices as adults…in careers and lifestyle. Before I sold my last business, I realized that I wanted to focus on this goal next and collaborated with Carleen McKay to write the Playbook for Teens. We have packages available to help corporations recruit talent and market their brand. After I sold my business in 2015, I began working full time to achieve my goal.

What did you hope to accomplish?

"I wanted to help connect the dots for kids, so they could make the right choices on what to study to prepare for a career that matched their interests and talents and would provide them the opportunity to live the lifestyle they wanted to live."

What was your original plan for the Playbook?

"I wanted to inspire and highlight that there are many paths to success and that going to college for the traditional four years is not the only choice. I wanted to show students that people who look like them are happy and successful in careers and doing wonderful things to make the world a better place."