Blog Post by Kate Surra and Susanna Schaum, PM Class of 1984
My friend, Susanna, is a Penn Manor Alum, Class of 1984. We both have daughters. While I am at the beginning of the parenting road with a six year old and a two year old, Susanna is farther along with a 26 year old. As women, we know the challenges our daughters will encounter as they pursue their interests, select careers, possibly marry and have children. We are challenged daily with balancing our own lives and we know the expectations on them will be just as high. They, too, will be expected to be successful at a career, to be great mothers and fantastic wives.
As a female engineer, and an instructor in the Water and Environmental Technology Program at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, I recognize the need to expose more young women to STEM career options. Susanna and I share this common interest in recruiting more women to the College, and to the STEM fields in general. So, when I organized a tour for young women from Penn Manor (Susanna’s alma mater) to introduce them the phenomenal green collar and manufacturing career opportunities afforded to graduates of the Water and Environmental Technology and Machine Tool and Computer Aided Manufacturing programs at Thaddeus Stevens College, I asked Susanna to partner with me. Together we organized a tour of Lancaster City’s Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant and green infrastructure projects, and of Flex-Cell Precision’s (where Susanna works) manufacturing facility. After the company tours we provided the young women with the opportunity to have lunch at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and tour the campus. It was so exciting to meet the young women and share their enthusiasm. They were exposed to professions many of them had not considered.
Touring the Lancaster City Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant allowed the young women to learn more about careers in the water industry. Although water is a resource that we use daily, we rarely think about the people who work to ensure this basic human need is met. In Pennsylvania, an aging workforce and increasingly stringent environmental regulations have resulted in an impending shortage of certified technicians. Graduates of the program will find employment in both the private and public sector, with starting wages between $18 and $25 per hour. These careers also offer good benefits, and excellent job security. What could be more rewarding than a career helping people, and helping the environment?
At Flex-Cell Precision, an innovative, high tech company specializing in CNC machining, the female students explored manufacturing careers. Steel, titanium, kovar, aluminum and stainless steel arrive at the facility and after a few weeks these metals leave as intricate parts for the medical, military and communications industries. Susanna and I found it fascinating to watch the young women as they toured the workspace and saw the machines and employees engaged in challenging and interesting tasks.
They learned about the sponsorship program Flex-Cell Precision, along with 20 other companies, participates in each year. Thaddeus Steven’s Students are sponsored by a company who pays $1200 for their tools and then in many cases gives them a summer job before they start at the College. Susanna says that Flex-Cell Precision currently has two students participating in the program who work while they attend classes, and also participates in an innovative internship program that allows second year students with a grade point average of 3.2 and above to work for class credit. Flex-Cell Precision currently employs five graduates from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
Susanna always asks how many of the young women have part time jobs and many of them tell her they do. When she enquires about their pay, which many times ranges from $7.50 to $9.00 an hour, Susanna tells them they could make between $12.00 and $15.00 an hour, if they were to pursue a machining sponsorship from one of the 16 companies participating in the program. We also discuss starting wages which can range from $18.00 to $23.00 an hour for machining companies in Lancaster County. For some, these wages mean nothing. It is hard to explain hourly wages, salaries, the advantages of good health benefits and 401(k) plans to young people. All of that seems so far away.
As a woman and a mother, I encourage parents and teachers to talk to the young people in your lives about their future educational decisions. Some of us have children who know exactly what their future holds. We will be able to tell our friends about our children who are engineers, architects, doctors, web designers, nurses and physical therapists. But, who talks about the careers in the water industry or in the machining fields? Flex-Cell Precision alone has more than 20 of them, and they make parts every day that are shipped all over the world. The also make respectable wages and have good benefits. AND, they are not carrying $32,528 (the average amount of student loan debt for PA college graduates) in debt upon graduation.
The workforce is changing and the people with skills are in demand and will continue to find challenging and interesting jobs that pay well. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 16th. Come visit Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and share what a promising future looks like with young women and men.
For more information about Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, please visit their website at: www.stevenscollege.edu. If you are interested in learning more about women in the STEM fields or the W.E.T. program, please contact Kate Surra at email@example.com.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 16th. Come visit Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and share what a promising future looks like.
For more information about Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, please visit their website at: www.stevenscollege.edu.
If you are interested in learning more about women in the STEM fields or the W.E.T. program, please contact Kate Surra at firstname.lastname@example.org.