Manufacturing doesn’t have to be a male-dominated world, and Teresa Beach-Shelow is proof. The majority owner of Superior Joining Technologies, Inc. in Machesney Park, Illinois, entered the industry 20 years ago with her husband and business partner, Thom Shelow, a career welder who started the business in the family garage.
Today, the couple’s company is FAA-certified with expertise in precision welding, non-destructive testing, and laser processes, with an emphasis in the aerospace industry. The company is also nurturing the next generation of manufacturers, setting aside a large room in its 55,000 square-foot facility for school robotics teams and a Northern Illinois University auto racing team.
“A certain type of manufacturing has gone away, but the highly skilled, highly technical, really fun stuff, such as creating, solving problems, innovating – all of that is still very much a part of our local manufacturing community,” Beach-Shelow says.
The Shelows sponsor several of these teams and actively serve on advisory boards for groups like Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) and Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA).
Beach-Shelow is also a founding member of Women of Today’s Manufacturing (WOTM), a Rockford group that encourages local women in the field by promoting education for current and aspiring tradeswomen.
Thirteen years ago, Beach-Shelow was one of the creators of manufacturing camps, as she and other leaders sought a way to engage youngsters – especially girls – in the fields of robotics, engineering and manufacturing.
“I think we’ve found through Lego robotics teams and our high school robotics teams that girls who participate in these clubs love the design, and they’re well-suited for problem solving and leading teams,” she says. “They’re moving into engineering classes and that kind of thing.”
Workers of the future are taking note. Beach-Shelow’s bubbly fifth-grade granddaughter is often spotted hanging around the business and she’s been highly engaged in her Rockford school’s robotics league.
“She already looks at me and asks, ‘When can I be company president?’” says Beach-Shelow.