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Modern Day Rosie the Riveters: Women Prove to Be Valuable Assets for Essential Roles In the Skilled Trades

By John Willis, MIAT College of Technology Houston Campus President

March is Women’s History Month, which is a perfect time for kicking off a major initiative to encourage and support women in the pursuit of careers in the skilled trades.  MIAT College of Technology’s campuses in Houston and Canton near Detroit are committed to supporting women and men of all ages and stages of their life in acquiring essential knowledge and skills that will equip them for gainful employment in the skilled trades.  Given the well-deserved attention that essential workers have garnered since the World Health Organization declared  COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020,  this is a great opportunity to emphasize the value of being employed in the skilled trades.  Also, with the recent inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman to occupy the Office of Vice President of the United States of America, it is time for career schools, such as ours, to tackle the gender stereotyping that can often still occur in certain careers — especially in the skilled trades.

MIAT leaders, faculty and staff know that women are well-suited for jobs in historically male-dominated fields such as welding, aviation maintenance, HVAC, and energy – to name just a few.  We are on a mission to  recruit more women to our college and offer them the opportunities that a skilled trade can offer. We are seizing the opportunity to demonstrate that career paths should always be based on a person’s passion, ambitions, and abilities – and not a person’s gender, race or ethnicity. Now and for the foreseeable future, we are adopting and maintaining a leadership position in telling the stories of accomplished women in the skilled trades. Our ultimate goal is to encourage more women to pursue rewarding careers as essential skilled workers.

Adding considerable credibility and support to our 2021 mission to recruit women in the skilled trades are four extraordinary female instructors at our Houston campus. In fact, these four women have been interviewed by Houston area television stations and magazines recently to share their personal experiences and to inspire other women to consider a career in the skilled trades. You will learn more about each of these remarkable women who are excellent ambassadors for our school in this blog and over the coming weeks and months.

Women and the World War II Effort

You might remember that women played a major role in helping the United States achieve victory during World War II. America reluctantly yet defiantly entered World War II after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. “Rosie the Riveter” became an icon for all American women  who proved that they were capable of filling roles in the workplace and in the military when men were drafted into service during World War II. Women in the 1940s blazed trails and broke barriers by serving as pilots who ferried  planes for missions and as factory workers building airplanes and ships to support the war effort.  

The following  paragraph includes a few statistics regarding the effective role of women during World War II:

Women were critical to the war effort: Between 1940 and 1945, the age of “Rosie the Riveter,” the female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945, nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. World War II opened the door for women to work in more types of jobs than ever before, but with the return of male soldiers at war’s end, women, especially married women, were once again pressured to return to a life at home, a prospect that, for thousands of American women, had shifted thanks to their wartime service.

Source: The History Channel (www.history.com)

When American men returned to their homes, their communities, and their jobs after World War II, many women resumed to roles as wives, mothers, teachers, secretaries, nurses, servers, cooks, and maids  in accordance with societal norms of the era.

Thankfully, attitudes and opportunities for women at home, in schools, in government, and in the workplace have shifted favorably since the 1940s. It is my belief that, MIAT and others have an obligations to do more to showcase how much value women add to the skilled trades and other essential careers.

MIAT’s Women Instructors, Students and Graduates 

The Houston campus of MIAT has grown significantly since 2015 – from 48 students then to over 600 students in 2021.  Fortunately, our student enrollment has remained steady despite the pandemic and enrollment by women in our programs has steadily increased. 

Currently, 7% or our students in Houston are women. We have graduated 29 women since 2015 – four of them in 2020. In addition, we have hired four female instructors — Mary Short, Sarah Hussing, and Summer Marshall as aviation maintenance instructors and Brandy Holloway, who also serves as the program coordinator for Non-Destructive Testing. All four have extensive experience in their respective fields and are positive role models for all our students.  

I am extremely grateful to Mary, Brandy, Summer and Sarah for working  closely with me and our MIAT team to participate on short notice in media interviews offered by First Colony Magazine, Fox 26 KRIV TV and ABC-13 TV station in recent weeks.   Mary and I were interviewed via Zoom by writer Rachel Greene for First Colony Magazine, with special thanks to editor Natalie Lerner for bringing this story opportunity to Rachel’s attention. Mary and Brandy also were interviewed via Zoom by morning anchor Sally MacDonald live on February 3 for Fox 26 Houston’s Wake Up! Special thanks to producers Jonathan Chastain and Jessica Berman of Fox 26 for organizing this live segment. Our MIAT Board of Directors were eager to see the segment and I hope you will be as well.

Fox 26 News Interview Link: https://youtu.be/Ew7ZfB6gx84

ABC 13 assignment manager Richard Guerra scheduled multi-media journalist Nick Natario to visit MIAT’s Houston campus on Feb. 4 to capture video and conversations with Brandy, Mary, Sarah, and Summer for a special feature that will air in March on ABC-13 for Women’s Empowerment Month.  Nick spent several hours with us last week, which was truly an enjoyable experience for all of us involved. {Note: this segment is scheduled, as on now, to air at 4:30 p.m. Central Time on Monday, March 8. We will share and post a link to the segment when it is available.

I am thrilled that the need to recruit more women in the skilled trades is gaining traction – in just a few short weeks since we decided to make this a top priority for MIAT in 2021! I am thrilled that Sarah, Summer, Brandy and Mary are willing to tell their stories and help to communicate that “a hard hat knows no gender.”

Over the course of this calendar year, we will be sharing  even more stories of our smart and capable women instructors and graduates. These accomplished women are explaining in their own words what led them to work in a male-dominated industry, what challenges they encountered along the way, what they liked most and least about working as one of very few women in their field, and what advice they would offer girls and women who are considering a skilled trades career and what to expect at a Career and Technical education college.  I am excited for them to share their knowledge and advice.  As an educator, I know what we do makes a difference not only the lives of our students but future generations.  I hope this effort is a spark to great change in the skilled trades. {Aaron: please add photos of our women instructors and women grads here.

Staying Safe and Serving Our Students

Thankfully, 2021 is off to an excellent start for both our Houston and Canton campuses.  Our Houston campus is continuing to offer a hybrid learning experience of both online lecture and on-campus lab instruction to move our students forward to completing their course of study while staying safe. As part of our continued COVID protocols, facial coverings and wellness checks are required for everyone who comes to our campus facility. Our facilities are sanitized hourly and overnight, and plexiglass barriers ensure social distancing. These are just a few of many measures we are taking to maintain the safest environment possible at our Houston campus.  As vaccines become more readily available this Spring and Summer, we will look to modify our approach back to our normal educational delivery model based on guidance from local, state and federal health officials..

Check out www.miat.edu for more information on our programs, to schedule an actual or virtual campus tour, or to schedule a consultation via phone, video or in person.  Please also follow MIAT on our social media platforms.

 

 

As always, I welcome your comments and questions via email at JWillis@miat.edu. Thank you for your support!

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