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Dec. 19, 2014
Area women train for nontraditional careers through HCC programs
WELDON, N.C. – Careers in vocational technology such as welding, automotive and industrial systems have often been thought of as men's work. But, times are changing.

In 2013, a Post Register article cited U.S. Department of Labor statistics from 2009 that stated about 3,000 women were working as diesel mechanics nationwide with another 14,000 women working as automotive service technicians. In the same article, the breakdown of females in nontraditional roles looked like this (data from 2009): women account for about four percent of the nation's welders, about 2.2 percent of electricians, about .8 percent of diesel mechanics and about 1.8 percent of automotive service technicians.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between 2006 and 2016, the labor force is projected to grow to 12.8 million with around 49 percent being women. Also, in 2016, women are expected to make up 46.5 percent of the estimated 164.2 million people in the labor force.

Halifax Community College's (HCC) School of Vocational and Industrial Technology is helping local women train for careers in nontraditional fields including welding, automotive systems technology and industrial systems technology. The College offers certificates in these fields through the Career and College Promise (CCP) program to high school students. In addition, HCC offers an associate's degree, certificate and diploma in automotive systems technology and industrial systems technology, as well as a diploma and certificate in welding technology.

HCC welding student Holly Weatherwax from Roanoke Rapids is taking advantage of the opportunity. She was exposed to welding through family connections and took woodshop in high school. "I want to create things with metal instead of wood," said Weatherwax. The first-year student cited HCC's convenient location as a major selling point. "I like the hands-on aspect of the program," she added. "Women should at least try it out." Weatherwax is looking forward to a bright future and earning a great salary.

First-year welding student Victoria Porch from Roanoke Rapids also enjoys the hands-on learning. "I like it. You can make all kinds of things with metal," she said. Porch likes working with her fellow students. "We're like a family…This is a great learning experience. It's hard work, but you can make good money and be active and creative.”

The welding program has an 80 percent job placement rate and graduates can make anywhere from $10-18 per hour for production work; $18-28 per hour for construction jobs. Those who work on emergency shut downs can make more plus $150 per diem each day while traveling. Graduates are able to go out and work as a cutter, welder, fabricator, blueprint reader, and depending on skill level and prior work experience, a foreman.

Currently, there are day and evening welding programs available at HCC. While in class, students learn how to fabricate, cut steel, weld aluminum, carbon steel and stainless, plasma cut and much more.

CCP students Amanda Bradley, Emily Burnette, Kaitlin Shearin and Magen Hodges, all students at Roanoke Rapids High School, are enrolled in the automotive program at HCC. They are learning about basic electricity.

"I really enjoy the setting and love my instructors," said Bradley. "I would encourage other women to look into it if they're interested. It's a good program."

"The instructors here are patient and helpful," said Shearin. "They are always there to help.”

Hodges agreed. She added that the program can benefit anyone—men or women. "I encourage everyone to check it out."

"This is something everyone should know how to do…I like the program. The instructor teaches us what we need to know and I've really enjoyed the class," said Burnette. "There really isn't a reason why women shouldn't go into this field. If it's something you're interested in, you should take a step forward. It's a really good program and it's fun.”

The automotive systems technology program provides coursework in transportation systems theory, braking systems, climate control, design parameters, drive trains, electrical/electronic systems, engine repair, engine performance, environmental regulations, materials, product finish, safety, steering/suspension, transmission/transaxles, and sustainable transportation, depending on the area of study chosen. Graduates are prepared for employment as entry-level transportation service technicians.

Students in industrial systems technology learn multi-craft technical skills in print reading, mechanical systems maintenance, electricity, hydraulics/pneumatics, welding, machining or fabrication, and various diagnostic and repair procedures. Graduates are able to safely install, diagnose, repair and maintain industrial process and support equipment.

For more information about vocational and industrial technology classes, contact HCC at 252-536-HCC1 or Hunter Taylor, school chair, at 252-536-7228.
Holly WeatherwaxKaitlin Shearin, left, and Magen Hodges
Holly Weatherwax
Emily BurnetteVictoria Porch
Emily BurnetteVictoria Porch
Amanda Bradley
Amanda Bradley
Halifax Community College's Mission
Halifax Community College strives to meet the diverse needs of our community by providing high-quality, accessible and affordable education and services for a rapidly changing and globally competitive marketplace.
Primary Media Contact: Melanie Temple, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, mtemple295@halifaxcc.edu, 252-538-4319

Secondary Media Contact: Dr. Dianne Rhoades, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Halifax Community College and Executive Director of the Halifax Community College Foundation Inc., dbarnes-rhoades128@halifaxcc.edu, 252-536-7239