Lund and Crestliner have launched a recruitment plan to increase the number of women on the boat builders’ production floor. The Brunswick companies said that more than 20 percent of the workforce at its New York Mills, Minn., facility are women and that number is “steadily” increasing.
"So far this year, women account for 25 percent of our new hires," said Lynda Everson, human resources manager at the facility, in a statement. “All are contributing to our boatmaking efforts."
The company said that attracting new employees to the New York Mills facility has been crucial to its growth. Brunswick moved Crestliner production to New York Mills in 2010. Since then, demand for the two brands continues to grow as aluminum boat sales still rising. During the period of high demand, the facility has also needed to replace employees as they retire. All of that comes at a time when skilled workers are in short supply.
Recent data suggests that there will be a need to 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs over the next five years, during a time when the workforce is “graying.” The shortage of workers is often more acute in sparsely populated rural areas.
Women represent 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force, according to the National Association of Manufacturing, but only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce.
Everson saw the gender divide as a way to fill the work-shortage gap. "We formed our Women in Manufacturing Group at New York Mills, and got to work," she said. "Among its goals are to help members leverage their strengths for personal development as well as develop a network to generate ideas and share best practices of how we can improve both our own careers as well as better the plant's performance."
The group also advocates for women to explore manufacturing as a career by serving as "ambassadors" in their community and social circles, said Everson. Recently the group invited young women in the area to tour the New York Mills facility, where they learned firsthand from Lund/Crestliner employees about work responsibilities on the factory floor.
"Manufacturing may be a traditionally male occupation, but as women proved in WWII when six million of them, one in four at the time, accounted for nearly 40 percent of those churning out wartime production," said Everson. “’Rosie the Riveter’ has a place in our workforce.”
Lund/Crestliner is now establishing additional day care facilities to help working mothers.
"Our first order of business at New York Mills is to make sure that we have a skilled and capable workforce - male or female - but we just want to make sure that women know they are not only needed in manufacturing, but they are also most welcome,” said Everson.