By Kathie Barnett PPG Aerospace learning and development manager There are currently more than 12 million manufacturing workers in the United States, accounting for 8.6 percent of the workforce, according to a report by Deloitte. In the next decade, around 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled; however, the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million unfilled positions. While women traditionally have been underrepresented in manufacturing, they are an untapped source of talent, innovation and perspective for manufacturers across the United States. We must act now to ensure modern manufacturing has a diverse, talented workforce. A major factor in the skills gap is the perception, particularly among young people and their parents, that manufacturing’s best days are behind us. Manufacturing is a healthy and growing sector that provides attractive, skilled opportunities for all employees—especially women. Women comprise manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent. To fill the skills gap, we need to empower women to explore manufacturing, from the plant floor to the boardroom, from engineering and research and development to the trades, for a successful career in manufacturing. According to the report, 27 percent of manufacturing employees are women, while 47 percent of the entire U.S. labor force is women. Why are women so important to manufacturers like PPG? A diverse workforce can have a positive impact on a company’s health, wealth and culture. The report states that when employees believe their organization is committed to inclusion, companies report better business performance. By involving women and closing the skills gap, companies can promote innovation and competitiveness in the global manufacturing landscape. Organizations can also unleash the full potential of their female workforce by creating a culture where unique strengths thrive. One of the best ways to increase the number women in manufacturing is to develop interest early. Manufacturers across the country are encouraged to participate in National Manufacturing Day and support educational opportunities that will help develop the next generation of manufacturers. When companies like PPG welcome the public during National Manufacturing Day, we also open the minds of students, parents and teachers to the world of modern manufacturing. To celebrate National Manufacturing Day, PPG plant workers participated in the STREAM, for science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and manufacturing, Kid Expo at the College of the Canyons in Valencia. Manufacturers need to do more. Increasing the number of women in manufacturing is imperative for the success and sustainability of the industry. By creating a diverse workforce, manufacturers are able to meet challenges quickly, creatively and effectively, providing a significant competitive advantage in today’s global economy. Kathie Barnet is the PPG Aerospace learning and development manager. PPG, which has offices in Valencia, operates in more than 70 countries, and reported net sales of $14.7 billion in 2017. PPG serves customers in construction, consumer products, industrial and transportation markets and aftermarkets.