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.

“We have local companies contact us all the time looking for machinists, welders and other skilled positions,” West Georgia Technical College Dean of Trade and Technology Linda Sullivan said. “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, West Georgia Technical College has partnered with University of West Georgia to offer a Women in Skilled Trades Open House September 12 in Newnan to target women who are looking for opportunities. The Open House will be 5-7 p.m. at Central Educational Center (CEC).

“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,” WGTC Director of Public Relations Ben Chambers said. “There is an abundance of opportunity for these women in the skilled trades. We just need to let them know about it.”

West Georgia Tech will be showcasing hands-on programs it offers in the skilled trades and UWG will be featuring programs including chemistry, computer science, criminology and video production.

WGTC Senior Director of Advanced Manufacturing Steve Cromer said often women in skilled trades outperform men.

“I have seen in many instances where in fields such as electronics and avionics technology – jobs held traditionally by men – women would regularly outperform their male counterparts in areas of problem solving and troubleshooting simply because they were more attuned to detailed data collection and drawing specifications,” Cromer said. “In Commercial Truck Driving, I have observed women perform exceedingly well due to their ability to multi-task at a very high level, which is an absolute requirement for this profession.”

Thanks to funding through the HOPE Career Grant, many of the programs are available with little or no tuition cost.

“The state will kick in the HOPE Career Grant on top of the regular HOPE Grant for many WGTC diploma and certificate programs in these high-demand fields like Welding, Machine Tool, Precision Manufacturing and Air Conditioning,” Sullivan said. “That will cover tuition costs, so a student would only have to pay for books and fees.”

Sullivan 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, she said.

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.

UWG’s STEM Mobile Lab also will be on-hand for tours and demonstrations.

Other exhibitors on hand at the event will include WIOA WorkSource, Alta Refrigeration, EGO North America, US Foods and Hitachi Construction Machinery Loaders America.

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