Magazine article Techniques

Not Just a Guy Thing: Women Encouraged in Nontraditional Fields

Magazine article Techniques

Not Just a Guy Thing: Women Encouraged in Nontraditional Fields

Article excerpt

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts one million new jobs for skilled construction workers by 2005. Traditionally, most of those who work in this field are male. Most who enter training programs are male, and most who are even exposed to construction and engineering as career possibilities are male.

While this tradition has been changing over time, some companies are taking active steps to transform the industry now.

Starting Young

Getting women into construction or engineering does not begin with the hiring process or in the workplace. Instead, girls must learn about these career possibilities while they are in school and making choices about classes.

One construction and engineering company--the Birmingham, Alabama-based BE&K--has led the way in creating initiatives to address the skilled workforce shortage and encourage women and girls in nontraditional jobs.

Last February, BE&K hosted "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day"--a career shadowing program establishing mentor relationships between professional engineers and high school girls. The program took place as IBM, General Electric Company, Intel, AT&T and other corporations and professional engineering associations also recognized the day as part of National Engineers' Week.

During the daylong program, a dozen BE&K engineers had students shadow them in their work. Students also attended presentations on engineering as a career, visited project teams and CAD stations for demonstrations, and took a tour of a local project under construction. The 25 girls involved were high school students who had demonstrated an interest in math and science coursework.

"It's a great honor to be given the opportunity to introduce, encourage and mentor the future generation of young female engineers," said BE&K President Dennis Schroeder.

Off To Camp

Following this success, BE&K offered a summer day camp for girls during July 2001. For one week, a group of professional female craft workers led high school students through basic safety, carpentry, electrical and welding training.

This program--the first effort of its kind in the nation--took place at BE&K's School of Industrial Construction in Saginaw, Ala. It was a great success in teaching the participating girls about construction as a career option--as well as in informing other women, including mothers of participants, who learned about the camp through local publicity and advertisements. …

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