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Roopinder Tara



Rosie, the next generation

Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 12:03

It takes guts to come to the heart of high tech, in San Francisco, and preach a message that is about putting people—women, no less—onto the assembly lines of America’s factories. Danielle Applestone, of Daughters of Rosie, tells the hipsters gathered at Autodesk’s Design Night that, yes, there are indeed factories in America. Just when you thought every part now being made comes off assembly lines in China, we find out that America still clings to the No. 2 spot in manufacturing.

Applestone is at Design Night, Autodesk’s semi-monthly party, to recruit for Daughters of Rosie, which she founded just this year. It’s a women-only training program, which sets up women with fully-paid, 30- to 60-day training programs at participating manufacturers. Daughters of Rosie aims to take women without jobs, without the skills in software or AI, without a degree from the nation’s top universities, or any university, and find fulfilling jobs in the manufacturing sector.

At the event, we find out that 18 percent of all goods are still made here. Who knew? And that there are 12 million people making them. That’s a chunk of the U.S. economy worth more than $2 trillion, according to Applestone. What is holding us back from making more is a severe labor shortage. We may have thought the shortage was critical in white collar jobs, tech especially—where demand is pushing salaries more than $300K for some starting positions—where all workers who can work are working, with jobless rates at historic lows. But the worker shortage is most critically felt in the heartland and in industry, in factories and on assembly lines.

Let’s say you have a manufacturing company of 25 people; it’s like four of your workers are always out.

Danielle Applestone, raised on a farm in Arkansas, addresses a sold-out Autodesk Design Night with a plea for women to consider a career in manufacturing.

As the perception of manufacturing becomes less of a career choice to Americans, manufacturers trying to revive it are left with a shortage of applicants. There were 600,000 manufacturing positions open in 2011, and with what may be a surge in domestic manufacturing, the number is expected to grow to 2 million by 2025, according to Applestone.

No shop class leads to less shops

Applestone recalls shop classes, once required of boys in high school, that played a part establishing the importance of manufacturing, steering students toward a path of making things. Manufacturing was even less welcoming to women. Women may have been discouraged from joining the ranks of factory and production line workers by workplace environments that exploited and took advantage of them. But it’s time to reconsider, according to Applestone. Ford issued an apology for sexual harassment of its female workers in its Chicago plants, after The New York Times published accounts from 70 workers from two plants over the course of 25 years. Ford CEO Jim Hackett stated in an open letter that “there is absolutely no room for harassment at Ford Motor Company.”

It may be a time where male-dominated manufacturers are contrite. Applestone also proposes a sense of sisterhood. “Women feel better around other women,” she said, and the Daughters of Rosie aims to have all-women training groups.

To convince women to join, Applestone cites these statistics:
• The average tenure for workers in manufacturing is 9.7 years, a sharp contrast to the job-hopping prevalent in tech workers.
• Turnover is among the lowest of any type of jobs (2.3 percent)
• The average pay in the manufacturing sector is $81,289. Shocker for all who thought working in the factory was a position earning barely above minimum wage.
• Less than three out of 10 Americans surveyed would encourage their children to take up a manufacturing career, according to Daughters of Rosie.


Participating in Daughters of Rosie is Saildrone, maker of wind- and solar-powered autonomous sail craft. (Image courtesy of Saildrone.)

One of the companies already enlisted by Daughters of Rosie is Saildrone, a Bay Area company that manufactures autonomous sail-powered vehicles to companies that gather ocean data. Typical of the way manufacturing is growing in the United States, Saildrone is high-tech in its methods and materials. We are shown several happy female workers in Applestone’s video, one of whom points out the relief from her desk job. She is no longer a slave to her email inbox. “I get to go home when it’s quitting time,” she says. “And I’ll have made something.” Others also point out the joy of actually producing something physical, how rewarding that is.

Applestone, a long-time resident of the Bay Area, means to make her program as inclusive as possible and takes care to state it’s for anyone who identifies as a woman: “Folks who identify as nonbinary, gender nonconforming, trans-, cis-, and anyone who self-determines a gender identity we have not named here,” according to the Daughters of Rosie website.

Manufacturers are looking to fill positions with modern-day Rosies. To once again glamorize the industry, they’ve resuscitated a World War II icon, Rosie the Riveter. Also, companies are offering high pay, benefits, and perks to entice female applicants.

Leading daughter

Applestone is recruiting for her newly founded program
“Most of the people applying to Daughters of Rosie are folks in the service industry,” says Applestone. “They may be driving for Lyft, working in food service or administration of some type. They reach out to us because they don’t have much opportunity to advance in their current roles, and often they do not have health benefits provided by their employers. They are looking to find a career where they can have purpose, growth potential, better pay, and good benefits.”

Daughters of Rosie promises support for applicants
“We help people get ready to apply for our training programs if they need to create a resume or cover letter,” Applestone says. “We then look for an open program in their area and present them with the option of interviewing for that training program. Then, when they get accepted for an interview, we help get them ready to interview. In the future, as our community grows, we will support them by connecting them with more Daughters of Rosie and more opportunities to move their careers forward and develop.”

In addition to being the founder of Daughters of Rosie, Applestone is also Executive in Residence for Cycloton Road, a collection of startups in Berkeley, California. She has a Ph.D. in materials science from University of Texas in Austin, where her research centered on lithium ion batteries and led to a patent. She has a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from MIT. Applestone worked for 12 years managing Bantam Tools, the Berkeley-based manufacturer of desktop milling machines, acquired by Bre Pettis, best known as the founder of MakerBot.

First published Sept. 28, 2018, on engineering.com.


About The Author

Roopinder Tara’s picture

Roopinder Tara

Roopinder Tara is Director of Content for ENGINEERING.com. He has been into CAD, CAM and CAE for his entire professional life, as an engineer, CAD manager, professor, and publisher. He has written numerous publications on CAD, design, and engineering. He has a bachelors in mechanical engineering (Drexel University), a masters in engineering science (Penn State), and has been a certified professional engineer. He can be reached via email at rtara@engineering.com