Girls learn trade skills at construction camp

COLUMBIANA- Middle and high school girls from all over the county explored their interests in traditionally male-dominated fields at the 2017 Girls Can Construction Camp at the Shelby County College and Career Center from Monday, June 5 through Friday, June 9.

During the week, 15 students learned about several different aspects of the construction industry, including carpentry, plumbing, welding and electricity. On June 9, the students took a tour of the E.C. Gaston Electric Generating Plant in Wilsonville.

“Understanding that skilled trades are traditionally geared toward males, we want to ensure those female students interested in pursuing these professions have the opportunity to do so,” camp director and Alabama Power workforce development specialist Tom McNeal said.

McNeal said the 15 students represented the majority of the cities who have schools in the Shelby County School system, and were selected from many applicants through school-wide assemblies and counselors.

“More parents are seeing the benefits of their daughters attending,” McNeal said.

“We typically target students earlier so that if they find one area that they’re truly drawn to, they can begin taking skills-specific classes their junior year of high school,” SCCCC supervisor of career and technical education Julie Godfrey said.

For many of the students, McNeal said one of the major benefits of the Girls Can Construction Camp is that it gives them a newfound sense of confidence.

“They found out that they can do anything a guy can do, maybe even better, with the proper instruction,” McNeal said. “It was unbelievable to watch these girls.”

According to McNeal, the camp was what he called an “education-industry partnership,” which involved local representatives from the construction industry. The representatives spoke to students about what employers are looking for, what students can do in high school to succeed and how to avoid ruining their careers.

“We want to expose students to lots and lots of experiences and companies,” Godfrey said.

With less than 10 percent of workers in the construction industry being female, Go Build Alabama executive director Jason Phelps said it is especially important to focus on recruiting women.

“Women are vital to skilled trade industries in Alabama and nationwide,” Phelps said.

The 2017 Girls Can Construction Camp was sponsored by Alabama Power, Go Build Alabama and Magnus and Co.