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College Summer Camp Trains Teen Girls for Technical Careers

The 15th annual SWeETy (Summer Welding & Electrical Technology) Camp at Calhoun Community College, Alabama, is training high school girls for careers as electricians, welders, engineers and other male-dominated jobs.

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SWeETy ( Summer Welding & Electrical Technology) Camp at Calhoun Community College's Decatur campus.
Calhoun Community College
(TNS) — Seventeen-year-old Joselynn Stockfisch has career plans in trades considered nontraditional for women, and that made her a perfect fit for a camp designed to train high school girls in electrical and welding skills.

On Tuesday, Stockfisch worked with another teen to wire a breaker box, the first project of the three-day SWeETy (Summer Welding & Electrical Technology) Camp at Calhoun Community College's Decatur campus.

“It’s a good skill to learn for the future,” said Stockfisch, an upcoming senior at Decatur High who’s in her third year of precision machining and second year in automotive at the Career Academies of Decatur, the school district's career and technical education center. She said she ultimately wants to go into business with her parents renovating houses, and “I’ll also have a side business doing car repairs.”

Calhoun and the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce are hosting the camp, now in its 15th year. The idea is to expose nontraditional careers to female students entering ninth through 12th grades, said Amber Fortenberry, the chamber's director of talent development and recruitment. Ten students from area public schools and home school programs are taking part in the camp.

“We want to introduce young women to these high-demand, high-paying careers and their possibilities,” Fortenberry said.

For welders and electricians, “the job market is hot right now,” said Ben Maples, the camp’s welding and electrical instructor. “Everyone is looking for help (in those trades) right now.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, welders and solderers in Alabama made an annual mean salary of $42,030, as of May 2020, and for electricians, the annual mean income was $48,340.

Even if someone doesn’t plan to pursue welding or electrician careers, “it’s something everyone needs to know — basic welding and electrical skills,” said Maples, an instructor in the welding program that was launched at the Career Academies of Decatur in the 2020-21 academic year.

Faith Warner, 15, of Madison, just completed her first year at the new Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering in Huntsville and, for now, her goal is to be a materials or acoustical engineer.

“I’m still exploring different options,” she said. “I’ve never done (electrical work) before and I wanted to try this.”

Camp participants learned about safety measures when working with electrical mechanisms and welding, before getting hands-on experience with electrical wiring on Tuesday then welding processes and procedures today. Lunch programs will feature women who are working in manufacturing, welding and electrical careers.

Haile Valine, a 16-year-old student at Grissom High in Huntsville, who will be enrolled in the welding program there in the fall, likes the hands-on nature of the work.

“I want to do that for a living,” said Valine, whose goal is to earn a business degree “so I can open my own weld shop.”

The presenting sponsor for this year's camp is Indorama Ventures, and the gold sponsors are Mazda Toyota Manufacturing and Sparks Energy.

Maples said that there were only three girls out of about 50 total students in the welding program’s first year at Career Academies of Decatur.

“We’ll grow that number,” he said. “As soon as we can start recruiting, it’ll change.”

©2021 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.