Camp creates outlet for girls in construction

A group of girls, sporting safety glasses and ponytails, busily fiddles with wires, outlets and switches, living up to their light pink shirts that declare “Women at Work.”

The girls are assembling a lamp as part of the electrical portion of this week’s Mentoring a Girl in Construction summer day camp. They have already built and painted a toolbox and will create a welding project, as well as visit a construction site.

“Carpentry was my favorite,” said Lauren Riley, an upcoming eighth grader at Helena Middle School. “I love hammering and building things with wood and nails. You’ll probably hammer your thumb, but it’s still fun.”

Riley said she prefers carpentry to electrical, which involves a decent amount of math, or welding, which requires a heavy mask. She enjoys the satisfaction of “knowing that you made something with your own two hands” and plans to give her handcrafted lamp to her dad as a Father’s Day present.

“I want to work on a construction site when I’m older,” Riley said. “I can’t stand being in an office.”

MAGIC Camp takes place at the Shelby County School of Technology in Columbiana, in partnership with the Birmingham chapter of the National Association of Women. Tradeswomen and certified SOT instructors have teamed up to instruct the girls.

The camp began as a collaboration between two NAWIC members from Birmingham and Georgia, who went on to create a camp guidebook for other chapters to follow, said Deborah Williams, a 10-year NAWIC member employed by M.J. Harris.

“We expect to do this every summer and hope for a better response each time,” she said. “The girls seem to enjoy it, and I think they’ll tell their friends about it.”

The School of Technology shares NAWIC’s mission to spark more interest in construction among girls. They heavily recruit girls for the school, but the average electrical class has only one girl of 32-34 students, said Roger Gill, an SOT electrical instructor.

“I hope this helps girls realize they can work in construction,” he said. “Women can get hired as quickly as they want to since they’re a novelty in the business.”