Sarah Boisvert
Sarah Boisvert and manufacturing workplace photo

Preparing for the "New Collar" Working World

April 2, 2021
How Sarah Boisvert works to upskill the manufacturing workforce.

Digital manufacturing entrepreneur Sarah Boisvert wasn’t pulling any punches when she said the manufacturing industry’s biggest hurdle is its image.

“People still have this idea that manufacturing is dirty,” said Boisvert, pointing to an industry study that revealed how parents were a deterrent to young people pursuing manufacturing careers. It is often the case that manufacturing careers are not seen as viable means to secure economic security, she said.

Although there is a perception that people who attend colleges earn more (“which is what colleges propagate, of course”), Boisvert would have you know it depends on what subjects you study. “The STEM field is a pretty good indicator that you are going to earn more money, but it has to be in a field that is in demand—that is economically viable,” she said.

Sarah Boisvert, founder, New Collar Network.Sarah Boisvert

Boisvert is the founder of Fab Lab Hub, part of the Fab Lab Network based at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, which fosters entrepreneurship and workforce training for “new collar” job skills. She also happens to be a former ultraviolet laser and machine tool manufacturer. For her book, The New Collar Workforce: An Insider’s Guide to Making Impactful Change in Manufacturing and Training, Boisvert surveyed more than 200 manufacturers to get a sense of the skills and knowledge requirements for the next generation of work in advanced manufacturing. “New collar” refers to the next generation of skills employers will need, and includes problem solving and critical thinking.

“People who do not work in industry think advanced manufacturing means new technology such as 3D printing,” noted Boisvert. “But to those of us who actually manufacture parts day in and day out, advanced or “smart” manufacturing in Industry 4.0 is a complex integration of equipment, processes, software, data collection and people in order to improve quality, increase productivity, drive down costs and create an engaged workforce.”

Sarah Boisvert

Boisvert’s research is the basis for her definitive take on the limitations in STEM education, the curiosity manufacturers have for 3D printing applications, and the need for a call to action in creating non-traditional pathways to careers in the digital factory.

Watch the Machine Design Insider Interview with Sarah Boisvert.

Editor's Note: Machine Design ’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) hub compiles our coverage of gender representation issues affecting the engineering field, in addition to contributions from equity seeking groups and subject matter experts within various subdisciplines. Click here for more.

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