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Females in Electrifying Careers

Educators at Northeast Technology Center are trying to spark an interest in working with electricity in young females.
Females in Electrifying Careers

Female students learn how to wire an electrical circuit.

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Northeast Technology Center


Crossland Construction Company Inc.

Show Details

Show 1617: Females in Electrifying Careers
Air Date: April 24, 2016


Rob McClendon: Well, a program at the tech center in far eastern Oklahoma is trying to spark an interest in girls in working with electricity. And you won’t be shocked by the results. Here’s our Blane Singletary.

Blane Singletary: It’s a man’s world when it comes to industries like electrical engineering and construction. But a special one-day class at Northeast Tech seeks to plant the seed to encourage girls to consider this trade. We went out to see how they are getting wired.

Blane Singletary: It’s an electrifying morning at Northeast Technology Center in Kansas, Oklahoma. These bright-eyed students are wiring up your typical residential lighting, but you may notice something atypical about this team of electricians.

Wade Friesen: Just kinda came up with the idea of creating a class just for girls, and we ran the boys off and put this together.

Blane: That’s Wade Friesen, electrical technology instructor at NTC. After hearing about similar events that other tech centers have done to introduce girls to the field, he decided to give it a shot to help diversify his program.

Friesen: I have one girl in the class, and I’ve gone several years in a row without having any girls in the class. But they’ve always been successful, and we’re glad to have them when they’re interested.

Blane: And his class is not much different than the industry at large. In 2008, women made up about 20 percent of graduates receiving bachelor’s degrees in engineering fields. And in 2014, just 9 percent of people working in the construction industry were women. But this vast male majority isn’t stopping these girls from taking the first step.

Kimberly Blair: I want to go into the Navy to be an electrician. And so to reach my goals, I’ve got to start somewhere, and then I chose NTC.

Blane: Kimberly Blair is a high school sophomore, and like many of the girls here today, is getting an idea for what they want to do beyond high school. The goal of this no-boys-allowed day is to give them the first taste of electrical engineering, and, should they choose to pursue it further, they can apply for courses like this one as soon as next fall.

Marie Sanford: Experience brought me here, hoping that I actually like doing this.

Blane: Marie Sanford is a sophomore at Jay Public High School.

Sanford: I like mathematical things, and I like hands-on activities, and this was actually really fun.

Blane: With just a little bit of instruction and guidance from Friesen, these girls caught on quick.

Friesen: In less than an hour, they built a circuit. Eight teams of girls working here that as far as we know haven’t had any exposure to it to have gotten everything up and working. And we achieved that goal with everybody being safe.

[Shouts and cheers].

Blane: It was an experience that quite literally sparked their imaginations.

Sanford: I didn’t expect to be able to work with hands-on activities and everything like that. I thought it was going to be more of a tour, and instead being able to actually use the tools that we’re going to in real life and actually work on what we’re actually going to is actually a lot more fun than sitting around.

Blane: And their handiwork left an impression on these women who’ve found their place in the industry. Tracy Suttle works with Crossland Construction Co.

Tracy Suttle: They did really good. I was really shocked. They followed instructions very well and put the project together.

Blane: Suttle has been in this industry since she was the same age as many of these students. She shared her experience of being a woman in this so-called man’s world and says today’s project is only the tip of the iceberg.

Suttle: There’s more than just going out and wiring a house or commercial building. I mean, there are boards and computers and different things you can use electrical for. But to be able to come out of high school and already have a position where you could get a high-paying job, I think that would be really good for ’em.

Blane: It’s all about taking that opportunity, and it’s one that can get even greater should they decide to go through college. Cori Miller is a project engineer who also works with Crossland, and believe it or not, she started college in the performing arts.

Cori Miller: After talking with one of my friends, he was in the construction management degree, and he really got me interested, and I was like, you know want, I’m gonna take some classes. I just was hooked. I changed my degree, switched to construction management, and I spent the next four years in the construction management department.

Blane: And while women are still a rarity in her line of work, Miller says she hasn’t been treated any differently.

Miller: Not everyone looks at you as a woman and says, “Oh no, she can’t do it.” Most men do see the potential in you and allow you to explore and to accomplish a lot through it and to support you along the way.

Blane: While we probably won’t see all of these faces back here next fall, the big message echoed by many today is don’t let gender be a barrier for whatever job you want to do in life.

Miller: My hope for these girls are just that if they want to do it to do it, you know. If they want to go and be in the performing arts to do it, but if they want to come into the construction industry, you might be afraid, but fear is the first step of having courage. And if you’ve got that fear, you’ve got that drive, just do it.

Suttle: If you got it in your head and in your heart you can do anything that you want. I mean, the sky’s the limit. There’s no holding you back. If you think you can do it, go for it.

Blane: These girls haven’t let anything hold them back today [laughter], and it’s unlikely anything else will. Again, Kimberly Blair.

Blair: I think I’m just as qualified – anything a guy can do, a female can.

Blane: Cori Miller was also telling me just how rewarding this profession can be. She says standing outside a building like the new Hunt Tower in Rogers, Arkansas, and thinking back on all the hard work you put into it is an eternal reward.

Rob: Now, if you would like to learn more about females working in construction, streaming on our website, we have the story of a young lady we first met as a student, and is now project manager in her dream job. To see her story just head to and look under our value added section.

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