In today’s economy, women who want to get ahead are turning to a surprising area — skilled trades.
Long dominated by men, careers like welding, air conditioning, industrial maintenance and truck driving are booming, so much so that employers can’t find qualified candidates.
“I have local companies contact me all the time looking for machinists, welders and other skilled positions,” said West Georgia Tech Vice President of Economic Development and Campus Relations Laura Gammage. “They have more openings than we have graduates in these programs, so the competition is fierce.”
To try to create more interest in these high-paying local jobs, the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with West Georgia Technical College to offer a Women in Skilled Trades Open House Thursday in Carrollton to target women 16-24 who are looking for opportunities. The open house will be 5-7 p.m. on the WGTC Carroll Campus.
“We know there are many younger women in our community who are frustrated looking for work because they seem to only qualify for low-paying retail or service-sector jobs,” said Carroll Chamber Senior Vice President Donna Lackey. “There is an abundance of opportunity for these women in the skilled trades. We just need to let them know about it.”
Thanks to funding through the HOPE Career Grant, many of the programs are available with little or no tuition cost, said WGTC Carroll Campus Director G.W. Rogers.
“The state will kick in the HOPE Career Grant on top of the regular HOPE Grant for many diploma and certificate programs in these high-demand fields like Welding, Machine Tool, Precision Manufacturing and Air Conditioning,” Rogers said. “That will cover tuition costs, so a student would only have to pay for books and fees.”
The open house will feature tours of many of the labs in skilled trades. Female students, graduates and instructors will be speaking to potential students about these opportunities.
“We think it’s important for women to see that these are real, viable options for their future,” Lackey said. “Just because many of these are traditionally seen as jobs for men doesn’t mean they aren’t great options for women.”
Rogers said WGTC will waive its $25 admission application fee for anyone who applies at the open house. Most of the programs can be completed one or two years, and in the case of commercial truck driving, in only eight weeks, he said.
Other exhibitors on hand at the event will include WIOA WorkSource, Goodwill and Southwire’s Women’s Network.
Lackey said the open house is funded by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s College Access Grant. While it targets 16-24 year old women, everyone is welcome to attend to learn more about training opportunities in these high-demand fields.