Filling jobs in the US marine industry is becoming increasingly difficult as unemployment continues to fall and demand for skilled workers increases. In New York Mills, Minnesota, where the Brunswick Boat Group builds Lund and Crestliner aluminium boats, the company has begun targeting women for manufacturing careers.

“We formed our Women in Manufacturing Group, and got to work,” explained Lynda Everson, human resource manager at the facility, in a news release. “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 National Manufacturing Institute estimates that over the next decade 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the US will need to be filled. A recent New York Times article says such shortages may be counterintuitive with the proliferation of automation and robotics in manufacturing, but the sustained economic recovery and the graying of the nation's manufacturing workforce has led to many positions going unfilled – a problem more acute in more sparsely populated rural areas, which may not have the services and amenities often found in larger towns and cities.

Attracting new employees to the New York Mills facility has been crucial during the past few years, as the facility added Crestliner production, has seen sales grow for both Lund and Crestliner, and has needed to backfill for employees as they retire.

Everson saw the gender divide as a way to fill this gap. According to the National Manufacturing Institute, women represent 47% of the total US labour force, but only 27% of the manufacturing workforce. More than 20% of the plant’s current workforce are women, and that number is steadily increasing, according to Everson.

“So far this year, women account for 25% of our new hires,” Everson said.