Women in Construction Day helps local high school girls nail down a career

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Northern Michigan University’s Women in Construction Day is back at the Jacobetti Complex for the third year. NMU Construction Management Associate Professor Heidi Blanck hosted 120 high school girls from across the U.P. for a whole day of hands on learning.

"To give them a day to understand what it's like to be in the industry. We have 30 volunteers here. Some of them are my students. Many of them are volunteers from the industry who are taking a day out of their careers to be here and share their experiences with these girls," Blanck announced.

The workshop featured a shotgun style approach, allowing girls to experience as many trades as possible in just one day.
Students were broken into various groups and shifted between several events throughout the day. These stations included wood work, welding, surveying, computer aided design and leadership.

Each student built a sturdy shelf out of reclaimed palette lumber and then attached their own hooks which they fabricated themselves in the welding workshop. In the process, these young ladies were able to get a feel for activities that require focus and concentration.

"Every time we get a chance to experience something it helps us kind of check that box and see if it's something we want to do or not do," Professor Blanck asserted.

At the survey station, students used tools like a total station, level, measuring wheel, a ranging rod and more. There was a fun leadership activity challenged to build a tower out of spaghetti, tape and marshmallows.

"That helps girls understand communication, problem solving, critical thinking, things that we really do every day in the construction industry," Blanck resolved.

Mikala Robinson is a Munising High School senior in the MARESA program. She’s well on her way to a highly specialized trade of underwater welding. She commutes to the Jacobetti Complex every day from Munising to attend NMU’s welding course.

"I really like welding. Once I started I just fell in love with it. It's just a great opportunity to get started on your career early. I'm learning a lot,” Robinson declared.

Just ask her and she’ll tell you how much she's learned about the real world.

"It's definitely worth it. It's a drag, driving alone every day but it's such a great opportunity. It's free. My school pays for it. So it's just so worth it,” Robinson contended.

Girls don't necessarily have to go home with a career plan. Blanck says everybody got to go home with something. Each student left with the shelves they made, complete with hook. They all also received a goodie bag and many door prizes including drills, tool bags, hats, gift cards and much more.

They even took home a jump drive with their final product from their 3D CAD modeling activity.

Blanck says she hopes to continue these events and she’s already planned a similar session for middle school-aged girls in the spring of 2019.

Click here to visit NMU’s Technology and Occupational Sciences website.

Click here to learn more about the MARESA project.