WISE Women: Trades-Based Program Coming to EGCC

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Women who travel the WISE Pathways at Eastern Gateway Community College can find long-term careers with competitive wages by working in the industrial trades.

The Women In Sustainable Employment (WISE) Pathways program is new a partnership between the college and the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, says Amelia Taggart, associate director of workforce development and industrial trades at EGCC.

WISE Pathways will begin this summer at the Excellence Training Center at Youngstown State University, which will occupy a building currently being renovated and expanded at Fifth Avenue and West Commerce Street, downtown. The first informational session will be in June or July, Taggart says.

Participants must have a high school diploma or pass a general education development test to pursue certification or a two-year program, she says.

EGCC scholarships and financial support through OhioMeansJobs are available to those interested in the program, Taggart says.

Ohio TechCred will reimburse a business up to $2,000 for a current or prospective employee interested in an education in the industrial fields, she says.

Amelia Taggart, associate director of workforce development and industrial trades at EGCC

“We hope to get sponsorships so that there will be no cost for that workshop for the women that do attend,” says Taggart. Those interested in the program can contact her at ataggart@egcc.edu.

WISE Pathways was developed by HHW Ohio in Elyria. Women in trade-oriented jobs formed the nonprofit organization in 1979 as a support system in the male-dominated field.

According to the 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 6% of electricians, carpenters and welders are women.

“We started developing programming and actually had a degree apprenticeship training for a long time just to support women on their acceleration and success in nontraditional fields,” says Kaci Roach, executive director of HHW Ohio.

The post-secondary educational options through EGCC’s WISE Pathways programs include machinist, computer numerical control machine operator, industrial maintenance, welder and computer-aided design.

The Excellence Training Center will house machining and industrial maintenance laboratories; Choffin Career and Technical Center will be the location for welding; and EGCC will offer CAD training. Potential students must take an assessment test to make sure they have what it takes.

WISE Pathways also offers life skill training to help participants reach their goals. These include preparation for test taking and job interviews.

“We don’t want to put people into positions where they’re going to fail,” Taggart says. “We want to set them up to succeed.”

HHW Ohio shares the same passion. It rebranded its name in 2010 from Hard Hatted Women to encompass trades such as information technology and STEM-related programs, Roach says. Women are underrepresented in these lines of work, which present great opportunities to earn family-sustaining wages, she says.

The first WISE Pathways program attracted 11 participating employers from fields such as manufacturing, energy and utilities, construction and public safety. Of the 14 underemployed women who sought new opportunities through the program, 28% secured jobs within a week of completing the program.

Why do women need to get involved with this program? Because the natural path to trades doesn’t always exist for young girls.

Mechanics sometimes tell of learning trades from their fathers when they were young boys, but the same cannot be said for most girls, Taggart says. This is an opportunity to show these females are very qualified for these jobs.

“Women pay a lot more attention to detail,” Taggart says.

Sometimes, career paths can be blocked because women are usually the main child-care provider, Taggart notes.

“So part of the WISE program is making sure that we partner with those community partners to have the wrap-around services so that we can reduce those barriers, whether it be transportation or child care,” she says. “Some of these manufacturing jobs are 12-hours shifts, so we have to make sure that there’s a plan in place for these women.”

The ultimate goal is securing good-paying jobs for women. According to Zip Recruiter, the Ohio average for skilled trade workers is $19 an hour or $41,245 a year.

Taggart says there are opportunities for women in the trades all over the Mahoning Valley and EGCC does a good job placing them.

“We have employers calling all the time,” she says. “We have a graduating class, and I have to turn [potential employers] away, saying these people all have jobs already. They haven’t even graduated and they have jobs. They’re ready to go.”