Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

High school girls visit GCC construction trades class

BESSEMER - Twenty-four sophomore and junior girls visited Gogebic Community Colllege and Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District's building trades class project home in Bessemer on May 22 as the final field trip of the Women in Construction events sponsored by the GOISD's Career Tech Education program this school year.

The girls spent the morning at the building trades project home located on Stone Road, learning about new residential home construction. GOISD building trades instructor Ray Niemi, along with classroom aide Jerry McGrath and the current building trades students, assisted the girls with some hands-on learning.

Niemi spoke to the girls about the current home project, which is 90 percent complete and is being built for owners Dan and Dawn Peterson. He said the building site was just an empty field in the fall and now after nine months of construction work by the GOISD high school students and the GCC construction tech students, a home is nearing completion and will soon be ready for occupancy.

"We build everything from the ground up. You will learn all aspects of building a home from laying concrete blocks for the basement to building the wall systems and eventually, all the finish carpentry that goes into making the project a home," Niemi said.

He added that in the class, students also learn about electrical wiring and plumbing for a residential home.

The girls learned about safety at the worksite, including use of safety glasses and hard hats and then it was off to work. They had the opportunity to learn how to apply masonry stone on the front of the home, how to trim out an interior door, how to put up cement board siding on the exterior, and took a tour of the project home.

The girls also had an opportunity to hear first hand about what it is like to be a female working in the nontraditional career area of construction. Miquel Lewis, an interior designer working at Forslund's Building Supply in Ironwood, shared her experiences with the students. Lewis graduated from Ironwood High School in 2005. "I always had an interest in art and being creative and I also liked math so I combined them into a career," she noted. Lewis attended Michigan State University where she earned a Bachelors Degree in Interior Design. Lewis told the girls she loves her job because she gets to be creative and technical. "A customer might come in with an idea sketched on a napkin and we have to work to put it into reality." She advised that math, especially geometry, is an important skill she uses every day. Working in her field allows for a lot of variety. "There are so many different areas of construction design. It's not just about swinging a hammer,"she added.

Lewis advised the girls to consider all the possibilities in the field of construction and design. She said she works on kitchen and bath design and uses CAD and other home design software packages to help customer's visualize their projects. "It's not just an office job, you are out on the project site working with customers, suppliers and contractors," she noted. "It can be challenging as a female in this field but that with more women going into construction related career areas, the men have become more accepting."

The girls were impressed with the scope of the house project and that it was all built by students. Rebecca Deitz, a sophomore at Bessemer High School noted, "Learning about construction first hand was amazing. I liked learning about what women can do in this field and how women have benefited in this line of work." Wakefield-Marenisco student, Kassidee Yon, stated, "I am really interested in interior designing so it was cool to see how things are done." Sarah Johnson, a junior at L.L. Wright added, "Coming to the project home helped me learn a lot. I now know more about the construction field. It changes my view about it."

"The Women in Construction events are designed to introduce female students to non- traditional career areas, such as the construction field," noted Career Tech Education (CTE) Program Coordinator, Paulette Niemi. Earlier in the year, female students in Ontonagon County schools participated in a shed building project as part of their building trades program. The goal of the Women in Construction event is to give female students the opportunity to try out the CTE Construction classes and hopefully, interest some of them in taking the course during their high school years. "Two female students have already signed up for the CTE Building Trades class next school year and several more, after spending time at the project site and learning about the class, have expressed interest in taking it." Our goal is to increase enrollment of females in these nontraditional classes.

The Building Trades class is an elective course available to junior and senior high school students in Gogebic County. It is offered by the Gogebic Ontonagon Intermediate School District Career Tech Education program.