Training fields

Address the gender imbalance in technology fields

Mary Welch, 29, one of only four students in the machining program, works at the Advanced Manufacturing Center on the Portland campus of the Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City. The tech center is working to recruit more high school girls and adult women into male-dominated career fields with high demand and high salaries. (Courtesy photo / Francis Tuttle)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Training in predominantly male career fields like engineering, construction, manufacturing, information technology and automotive can open the door to high-paying, high-demand jobs for women.

The challenge is often to get them to see these careers as options for themselves.

“We are leading the fight,” said Jennifer Haile-Egbert, Business / Industry Advisor at the Francis Tuttle Technology Center. “We weren’t making any entry gains so we brought in Emma. “

Emma Wright is a part-time, non-traditional career counselor who strives to recruit students into promising career fields where their gender makes up less than 25% of the workforce.

Wright said it was slow, but they recruited more men into the pre-nurse program. Sixteen of the current 205 students are men.

Francis Tuttle enrollment figures show that 93% of health science students are women. The gender imbalance goes the other way for technical and industrial programs like automotive, carpentry, welding and precision machining, 92% male; information technology, 88% men; and the Academy of Pre-Engineering, 76% male.

The Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development’s 2020-22 Critical Occupations List shows that the state will need 348 additional IT support specialists by 2025. With a little college and no degree, they’ll gain more. average $ 21 an hour. Another 812 bachelor’s degree software developers will be needed and paid $ 40.68.

High school graduates with on-the-job training will be needed to fill 467 machinist positions that will pay an average of $ 20.66 per hour and 634 industrial machinery mechanic jobs that will pay $ 24.71, according to the list.

These are the kinds of high-paying, high-demand jobs that students of both sexes can train for at Francis Tuttle, but few young women choose.

Representation is essential when recruiting students in a non-traditional field, Wright said. She takes a visiting student to area schools and brings professional mentors to campus when possible.

Currently, 65 students are enrolled in the precision machining program. Four are women – three high school students and Mary Welch, 29, a part-time adult student who has also taken courses in welding, masonry and carpentry / cabinetmaking.

Welch said she was on her way to attending a four-year college after graduating from Stillwater High School when she accepted a scholarship for the carpentry program at the Meridian Technology Center and found that “the tool school was for me “.

This fueled his desire to understand how things work and his aptitude for creative problem solving.

At 20, she went to work as the only woman in a woodworking shop and “worked a lot harder” to prove that she could do the job. Today she will ask a male colleague for help if she needs it.

A new job at a start-up appeared to her while she was doing renovations in a restaurant and at the owner’s house. Learning that she was on her way to becoming a machinist, he hired her to help him open a store for Pale Blue Plastics, which develops products from recycled plastics.

“I see a lot of opportunities to apply the technical skills that Francis Tuttle gave me,” Welch said.

“Over the past 18 months, I have become attached to the identity of a designer,” she said. Working with tools and machines to manipulate materials, there is no judgment, just “the satisfaction of getting something to do what you want it to do”.

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