Sophie Orndorff, an eighth-grader at Horizon Middle School, spent the day May 1 learning how to use a saw to cut wood, how to be safe around downed power lines and how to drill cement.
“It’s been fun to see all the machinery,” Orndorff said. “It seems interesting. I don’t know much about construction.”
The 14-year-old was one of 220 eighth-grade girls from the region who participated in Pizza, Pop & Power Tools.
The event, presented by Spokane Community College, invited the girls to experience trades such as welding, plasma cutting, backhoe operation and construction – jobs with living wages.
“If you are a man or a woman, it’s equal in pay,” said Kenna May, program coordinator at Spokane Community College Apprenticeship and Journeyman Training Center, 2110 N. Fancher Road.
May said pay in these jobs is based on experience and your level of training.
It was the 11th year SCC has held the event. May said the hope is to steer the girls toward woodshop or metal classes.
“It really is an eye-opening experience for the girls,” May said. Most of them end up saying, “I didn’t know I could do that.”
The girls were led through a series of hands-on activities. They bent conduit for electrical wires, a simulator taught them how to paint cars and they tried their hand at welding.
Many of the girls squealed the first time they tried using a nail gun with the roofers.
“There’s a lot of squealing today,” May said.
They soldered pipe and learned how to mix cement. Avista Utilities brought power lines, transformers and reclosers to teach the girls about power-line safety. They used a hot dog to simulate what happens when someone touches a live wire.
Brady Hansen, a journeyman lineman for Avista, said he’s seen more recruitment efforts toward women in recent years. Anyone interested in the job must have a mechanical aptitude, a willingness to work outside in all kinds of weather and must be physically fit.
Hansen thinks women have a leg up on men in certain areas.
“Their emotional intelligence makes them very good foremen,” he said.
Over in the homebuilders area, girls were hammering nails, using a nail gun and using a jigsaw.
“I think it’s fun,” said Peyton Stark, an eighth-grader from Cheney Middle School. “Doing stuff like this opens your mind a little bit.”
She said it wasn’t her first experience using tools. She once helped her father build a “man cave” in their house.
Oxarc Inc., has come every year to the event. Donnel Beat, store manager at Oxarc, was showing the girls how to use a plasma cutter. After donning a jacket, safety glasses and gloves, the girls could write their names or draw designs in the metal.
“We brought all of our eighth-grade girls,” said Courtney Strozyk, principal of Reardan Middle School. She said the trip is very empowering for them.
“Last year’s group really enjoyed it,” said Christy Koch, an English teacher at Reardan Middle School. She said since it is girls only, they don’t have to feel like these jobs are just for the boys.
“This is the best thing my girls get to do all year,” said Lisa Smith, a math teacher at Deer Park Middle School.