Most days the electrical classroom at NTC Kansas is filled with guys training on everything from circuitry to robotics, but that was not the case one Thursday in February when 17 high school girls attended NTC’s “Jobs for the Girls” event. The purpose of the event was to introduce girls to the training and jobs available in the construction trades and electrical industry, with the end-goal being increased enrollment among female students.
“Historically, enrollment in our electrical program has been mostly made up of male students,” said Electrical Technology Instructor Wade Friesen. “Our goal with this event is to create an environment for female students to learn more about the training and career opportunities available in what’s typically a male-dominated trade.”
The high school students from Kansas, Colcord, Jay, Oaks and Locust Grove who attended the event were greeted with pink tablecloths, fruit and pastries for breakfast before taking their seat in the electrical classroom. Friesen invited industry partners from CBI Wholesale Electric Supply and Google to kick off the morning session by describing their careers in the electrical and manufacturing industries.
Erin Stafford, a facility technician and electrical journeyman at Google, spoke to the students about her professional success in a trade typically worked by men.
“Be you,” Stafford said. “Don’t try to be a man. You were given different strengths, so use them.”
April Anderson, owner/operator of CBI Wholesale Electric Supply, also shared about her career journey from working alongside her father in the electrical business to realizing that her passion was in the sale of electrical equipment.
“Go after what you want to learn,” said Anderson. “Take a class like this one. The knowledge I gained from taking a single electrical night class at NTC taught me what I needed to reach my goal. I’m still learning, and I ask the contractors I work with a lot of questions so I can better understand their needs and how my company can help them.”
After the Q&A session with Stafford and Anderson, the students proceeded out into the shop to complete a wiring project. They were divided into teams, given a set of drawings and guided by NTC students Stormie Smith and Kim Blair, both currently enrolled in the electrical program at NTC Kansas. Three other NTC students, Allyssa Coffelt, Milee Sams and Summer Warren, were also present to assist the participants. The students worked for roughly 20 minutes, and at the end of the session, all were successful in their projects.
“Coming into this, I thought it would be really difficult with all the different wires and electricity, but it wasn’t,” said Colcord student Jennifer Milligan. “We just followed the directions the leader gave, and it was really easy and a whole lot of fun.”
Current NTC student Milee Sams was a participant in the “Jobs for the Girls” event last year, and she’s now finishing up her first year of enrollment in the Electrical Program.
“When I came here, I was planning to study veterinary medicine, but I tried this and I absolutely love it,” Sams said. “I’m planning to go on to college and then lineman school. I attended an open house at OSU-IT where I was able to climb an electric pole and go up in a bucket truck – I’ve learned heights don’t bother me, and I love it.”
After a quick break, the girls gathered in the classroom once more to hear from manufacturing and construction representatives. Kari Mace Russell, of RAE Corp, shared about her jump from education to manufacturing, and she also talked about some of the practical considerations that come with choosing a career.
“Beyond the hourly rate of $12-14 starting out, we offer merit pay, bonuses and a robust benefits package,” Mace Russel said. “We have a great 401k, even though I know you're probably not thinking about that yet.”
Regina Foreman and Lori Nichols of American Castings, were also present to share information with the students, and closing out the day were Tracy Suttle and Cori Miller of Crossland Construction.
“Find those people who believe in you and encourage you,” said Miller. “Some days can be tough, but if you have a mind to do it, you can do it.”
At the end of the day, NTC Student Advisor Kathie Bergmann accepted six enrollment applications from the event participants.
“These industries offer great careers for males and females, but the reality is there’s a stigma about some jobs and who can do them,” said Bergmann. “We don’t want that stigma to be a barrier to their success.”