SYRACUSE — Kabrea Rostochak, Wawasee High School senior, wants to be a civil engineer. Keyanna Clevenger, also a senior at Wawasee, may or may not pursue an interest in interior designing but she is involved in the building trades program.
McKenzie Keaffaber, a junior at Fairfield High School, likes hands-on activities and is in the welding program. Kaitlyn Sanders, also a Fairfield junior, may want to run her own automotive shop someday and is involved in the automotive services program.
These four girls have something in common. They are females in programs traditionally dominated by males. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a non-traditional career for women is one in which 25 percent or less of those employed in a career field are women.
Jon Everingham, director of the Pathways cooperative that includes Wawasee, Fairfield and Columbia City high schools, said a goal is to increase the number of non-traditional students participating in its programs. In the Pathways cooperative that would mostly mean girls enrolled in traditionally male dominated programs. Only cosmetology and certified nursing assistants are traditionally dominated by females and there are currently no boys enrolled in cosmetology and one in CNA.
Everingham said the number of non-traditional students enrolled in programs is low and the numbers clearly back him up. Of the 143 students enrolled in programs traditionally dominated by one gender or the other — automotive, building trades, CNA, marine mechanics, welding and cosmetology — only seven of the 143 students are of the non-traditional gender. That is slightly less than 5 percent.
“We want to get more girls involved,” in traditionally male-dominated programs, he said.
“It is OK and acceptable regardless of gender,” he added. “You are treated the same. We serve all students and do not discriminate.”
For girls trying those male-dominated programs, it can be a little intimidating. “There is a stigma only certain industries are for men, but we live in a world in 2017 where that’s no longer the case,” Everingham said.
Rostochak’s oldest sister, Mattia Rostochak, is a chemical engineer for Exxon Mobil in Joliet, Ill. Kabrea said she wants to be outside in nature. “I think it would be cool to design a bridge knowing I designed it,” she said.
Clevenger said she is a hands-on, visual learner and thought learning about house construction would be good. She is in her second year of building trades and has learned about electrical, plumbing, putting up a wall and is currently helping Fairfield students put a roof on a house near Fairfield High School.
Keaffaber likes putting things together and wanted to do something in a shop setting. A cousin is a welder and suggested she try it. In her first year of welding, she is learning how to properly use the welding torch among other skills.
Sanders has a brother, uncle and dad who have worked on cars. “I have been in a garage since I was a baby,” she noted. She wants to be a diesel mechanic, but is learning everything in general about automotive service in her first year in the program.
There is an incentive to increase the number of non-traditional students participating. The district Pathways is part of is graded by the state on non-traditional student participation, Everingham said. “The state tracks participation,” he noted.
A goal, he said, would be to increase participation from the current 5 percent to at least 25 percent, if not more.