Each year, Jefferson College Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Instructor Kati Donahue talks to dozens of girls about the many opportunities that available in the trades and HVAC-R field. As educators, Kati and her peers at the College tried several things to try to engage females, including visiting area high schools and inviting girls to come tour the College’s HVAC labs and facilities. Those efforts, however, did not result in increased female enrollment.
After discussing with her peers, they changed their focus from those who were currently in high school—realizing that many had already decided what career they wanted to be when they “grow up”--to a younger demographic of girls in grades 5-8.
As a result, the HVAC faculty designed a unique learning opportunity this summer called “From Tutus to Tool Belts” (#fromtutustotoolbelts) where, over two weekends, 24 girls and their parents participated in several hands-on experiences related to various aspects of HVAC in the College’s state-of-the-art labs. After viewing demonstrations, participants completed activities where they wired a light bulb, prepped copper and brazed pieces together, worked with pipe wrenches and learned about cutting and threading black iron piping, and used a combination of tin snips, nips, and a hole cutter to perform sheet metal work. The girls finished up the day playing hide and seek, where they used an infrared camera to find those who were hiding.
“Of the 24 girls who came to the Tutus to Tool Belts program, I am hopeful that in the coming years I will see a few walk into my classroom ready to enter this amazing field of work,” said Kati.
“The best part was watching the fathers working with their daughters,” added HVAC Instructor Jack Cleaver.
Given the popularity and success of this year’s event, the “Tutus to Tool Belts” experience will continue with the hopes that it can be expanded to many other trades programs at the College.
Photo: The first ever “Tutus to Tool Belts” program at Jefferson College introduced girls in grades 5-8 (and their parents) to the excitement of HVAC careers by participating in several hands on learning activities led by program faculty. It was a unique opportunity to engage females in trades related career fields as viable career pathways after high school.