Industry Tours Spark Girls’ Interest and Awareness about Manufacturing

Since 2005, FLATE has facilitated close to 500 tours to 234 high-tech, manufacturing facilities throughout Florida for almost 15,000 students, and more than 1,600 educators and parents. These tours provide students, teachers and parents with the opportunity to have their eyes opened to the exciting and lucrative world of manufacturing and the many, varied careers the industry offers. One of FLATE’s goals has been to provide students with exposure to real Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workplaces, primarily those in manufacturing. Students are surveyed after the tours so data can be gathered to discover what the students experienced from their own point of view and to help streamline and improve tours in the future.

FLATE has always been committed to serving underrepresented and minority groups, targeting girls and women in particular. Last
year (2015), the decision was made to analyze data collected from students participating in statewide, Manufacturing Day and Month tours (October) to find out exactly what girls specifically, were saying about their tour experiences. Of the 4,770 students who participated in a 2015 MFG Day and/or Made in Florida industry tours, FLATE received 2,076 student surveys. Based on the tabulated surveys, nearly 98% of the students stated the tours helped them learn about technologies used in advanced manufacturing industries and manufactured products. Approximately 96% of students agreed the tours gave them new information about careers in advanced manufacturing. Nearly 92% of the students surveyed also agreed that the tours helped them understand how STEM subjects are put to work in advanced manufacturing industries. 

In analyzing gender-based responses, there was a 116% increase in the number of girls considering a career in advanced manufacturing before and after the tour. Of the total number of students participating, only 30% were female, reiterating the need for more outreach to women and girls to engage them in STEM and manufacturing.
Particular attention was paid to responses to the question, “What did you like most about the tour?” Data is still being analyzed to identify main response themes and categories, but a few samples of girls’ comments are shown below:
  • I enjoyed learning about the process of making a product that helps our country! It helps me understand more about the world.
  • It was very educational, we saw samples of what the machines make as a visual
    representation and it was really cool to see what they make. We saw how the machine works.
  • The machines are cool, and they can build anything. The place, is really organized with the education of each machine.
  • I like how the machines look and how they work. I really like what they make it looks so cool.
  • Is all the machines and how they work and the history. This tour was fun and I liked how all these machines are different and make really cool things.
  • How our tour guide told us a lot of information about each place we went to. All of the technology.
  • To see the process on how everything moved and worked.
  • I enjoyed the educational advantages received during this tour. I hope that the lessons and explanations taught in this will help the betterment of my future.
  • I liked the fun environment and I enjoyed learning about devices in manufacturing.
  • I found it really interesting since I had never been in a manufacturing company.
These responses and the data collected during this study clearly illustrate the significant impact of industry tours and their role in sparking girls’ interest in and awareness of the high-tech world of manufacturing and the many, varied, high-wage and challenging careers it offers. It is crucial to have STEM colleges and career explorations early on in girls’ academic experience so that appropriate mathematics and science coursework can be addressed.

According to a 2012 report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, independent of interest level in STEM, there are still obstacles that need to be overcome to recruit and retain more girls in STEM:
  • More than half (57%) of all girls say that girls their age don’t typically consider a career in STEM.
  • Nearly half (47%) of all girls say that they would feel uncomfortable being the only girl in a group or class.
  • Further, 57% of all girls say that if they went into a STEM career, they’d have to work harder than a man just to be taken seriously.
We know that girls are interested in STEM subjects and careers but in spite of this, they continue to choose other, more traditional
career choices such as teaching or social work. Research shows that although more than 80% of girls are interested in a STEM career, only a small percentage of those (13%), cite a STEM career as their number one choice. So we have work to do – we need to educate and raise awareness of the many lucrative and exciting STEM careers available to women. We need to educate everyone involved in our girls’ education – parents, teachers, career counselors, and of course, the girls themselves.

Manufacturing Industry tours are a proven and effective way to achieve this goal! For more information on 2016 Manufacturing Day visit http://madeinflorida.org/manufacturing-day, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org. To avail of FLATE’s STEM based resources for girls read our Best Practices guide on Recruiting & Retaining Girls in STEM, or head on over to the FLATE Wiki which is filled with great resources for STEM educators and practitioners.


Also from MFGDay.com: Stats from last two years shows Florida leading the nation in hosting industry tours and MFG Day events. Kudos to all who have made this a successful endeavor