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Camp Encourages Girls in Non-Traditional Trades
By West Kentucky Star Staff
MAYFIELD, KY - A recent one-day camp at the Mayfield-Graves County Area Technology Center allowed female students to explore some trades that aren't typically performed by women.

“Obviously, this is a nontraditional camp,” Mayfield-Graves County Area Technology Center principal Mike Miller said. “We’re looking at a people group in a particular trade that doesn’t exceed 25 percent. So, we targeted females for all three of these trades – welding, electricity, and carpentry."

He said they got grants and had teachers who volunteered to help, then he and guidance counselors did some recruiting. The event had 24 students from the middle and high schools of both Mayfield and Graves County as participants.  

"We’re thrilled with the students’ involvement and excitement about getting their hands on some tools they’ve never used before. That lets us send them out to do some thinking about their career options,” Miller said.
 
He said employers see nontraditional workers in a favorable light because a diverse workforce is the most successful.

Miller added, “We couldn’t do this without community support, without people like Lewis Yopp from Airgas, who worked to get donations of everything from gloves to helmets as giveaway prizes. Others who have provided tremendous help include Progress Rail’s human resources director Bill McDaniel, Ray Black and Son Construction supplying us with one of their employees, and all my teachers volunteering their time. Female teachers in business and health science also are here, lending support. It’s a real team effort.”

Taghan Bills graduated from Carlisle County High School this spring, and said she loves welding. She joined a high school class in Louisiana, and some guys said she couldn't do it. But, she didn't stop, even after moving to Kentucky.

“I got in the welding class, caught up to the guys and actually got ahead of them. So, I took Welding 3 this past year. Now, I’m going to get an associate’s degree in liberal arts at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, while completing the welding program, then I’ll transfer to Murray State University.” 

Bills explained, “I love that I can do welding and that it’s hands-on. It’s kind of like an art. Once you learn the basics, you make it your own. You develop your own techniques.”

Arnelda Thompson has worked as a welder for Progress Rail the past eight years, and said she hasn't seen a lot of female welders, but she loves it because of the technique and perfection it requires. 

She said, "I don’t complete a job until I’m finally satisfied that the work is just right. I love that artistic aspect. I truly hope some of these girls will try welding. Women often are artistic and patient. That helps in seeing that the work is done with precision.”

April Allen, a project manager for Ray Black and Son Construction Company in Paducah, said there is a gap in the industry since baby boomers are retiring and there is a need to fill those jobs. She moved into the carpentry trade after having a job a Lowe's, and brought her business sense and artistic bent to her job.

“As women, we tend to be more detailed, our projects tend to be a tad cleaner,” she said with a laugh. “I encourage them to pursue a skill trade, like carpentry because this industry is here to stay.”

Kayla Aldridge will enter eighth grade at Graves County Middle School when the new school year begins. 

“I am here today because I’m interested in learning new skills,” she said. “I like to widen my perspective on the world. I absolutely love doing hands-on activities like the 4-H Future City competition. So, I love learning new things that I wouldn’t necessarily learn in school. I think it’s good to build up girls’ confidence in this environment and to teach them they can do whatever they set their mind to doing. I hope things like this continue to offer possibilities.”

Published 06:56 AM, Saturday Jun. 16, 2018
Updated 01:40 AM, Monday Jun. 18, 2018

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