Rosedale Technical offers support to women pursuing nontraditional fields
March 16, 2016 12:00 AM
Taylor Fronzaglio of Donora speaks with Bryan Glasspool, an employee of Hanco, an industrial repair company, about employment opportunities during a career fair Tuesday at Rosedale Technical College in Kennedy.
Christa Cochran speaks with Mike McLane of Jeff Wokutch Automotive about potential employment during a career fair Tuesday at Rosedale Technical College in Kennedy.
By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Christa Cochran hopes to land a full-time job at an auto dealership but she’s not eyeing positions in car sales or office administration.
The 29-year-old from Ohioville, Beaver County, wants to repair and tune up cars in a dealership body shop and, ideally, to specialize in hybrid vehicles.
Next year, she will graduate from Rosedale Technical College, where her courses in automotive technology have included brakes, suspension and electrical fuel systems.
“I’ve had a passion for cars for years … it’s kind of where I want to be,” said Ms. Cochran, a member of the Women of Rosedale Tech — a recently launched group at the Kennedy school whose members share stories and challenges about being females in male-dominated industries.
The 17 women — including students and a few female staff members at Rosedale — convene monthly over lunch to talk about their concerns as nontraditional students and how they can pave the way for upcoming generations of women interested in careers such as auto mechanics; welding; and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
Of Rosedale’s annual enrollment of about 700, about 4.5 percent are women and that figure has been steadily increasing, said Dennis Wilke, the nonprofit school’s president.
“We know the opportunities are definitely not gender specific,” he said. “Some employers are looking to increase their diversity so we’ve had some specific requests for female graduates.”
At its spring career fair Tuesday, more than 50 employers showed up to generate interest in their organizations, including automotive-related businesses Firestone and Jiffy Lube; and companies seeking industrial, welding or electrical workers such as AK Steel’s Butler Works and Veka Inc., which makes window and door materials.
According to a 2015 report from Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit that tracks women in business, male-dominated industries and occupations had 25 percent or fewer women on their payrolls.
“Women continue to be highly over-represented in clerical, service, and professional occupations, while men tend to be over-represented in craft, operator and laborer jobs,” the report said.
In the U.S., women held 1.2 percent of all jobs in automotive service and fewer than 1 percent of jobs as bus and truck mechanics, diesel engine specialists, and heavy vehicle technicians and mechanics, the Catalyst research said.
Those kind of statistics don’t dissuade Ms. Cochran who has worked in concrete installation and roofing, and played on the all-female Pittsburgh Passion football team.
“It’s a slow process to get women into [fields like automotive],” she said. “I knew when I started at Rosedale that it was predominantly men. But I’ve been doing things not typical for women. I don’t mind crossing those barriers and never have.”
Among those looking to Rosedale for inspiration are students from A.W. Beattie Career Center in McCandless, which offers technical training to high school students from nine districts in the northern suburbs of Allegheny County.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the young women at the high school level … to see how students at the post-secondary level are handling being in a nontraditional program,” said Joanne Vano, cooperative education coordinator at A.W. Beattie.
Of 650 students enrolled at A.W. Beattie, 19 are females in nontraditional fields including HVAC, auto technology and robotics. To encourage more girls to consider those courses, A.W. Beattie includes its non-traditional students on recruiting trips to middle schools.
At A.W. Beattie, nontraditional also includes boys studying cosmetology, Ms. Vano said.
“It’s great for younger students to see them at the high school level,” she said. “Then the middle school students know it’s something they can do in the future.”
Joyce Gannon: email@example.com or 412-263-1580.
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