The Dubuque program helps girls explore the future in the trades

DUQUBUE, IOWA – Madison Duve stood at a table in an industrial technology classroom at Hempstead High School last week in Dubuque, using a bottle of wood glue to attach two pieces of wood at right angles.

Eighth-grade middle school student Eleanor Roosevelt was participating in a career exploration program organized by Dubuque Community Schools and the Dubuque Area Labor-Management Council.

The wooden box Madison was building was one of many hands-on projects she and her peers did to take home during the two-day program. They also had the chance to try soldering and plasma cutting, solder wires to create an electronic bug, and use virtual reality glasses to experience construction work.

“I really like heavy handwork and stuff like that,” Madison said, adding that she’s considering a career in carpentry. “…I think it’s so amazing that they’re so inclusive with everything, and there’s no limit to what you can or can’t do.”

The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reports that about 30 eighth-grade girls from Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson colleges, as well as Dubuque Online School, participated in the program, exploring carpentry, welding and engineering careers and hearing from local women currently employed in these industries. .

Kelly Cooper, executive director of the Dubuque Area Labor-Management Council, said the program hadn’t happened in several years, but the council and district brought it back this fall with DRA grants.

“(We want them) to understand that these are classes and careers they can pursue, and that there are women working in the trades,” she said.

Lilly Nauman, an apprentice carpenter at Menefee Drywall Co. in Cedar Rapids, supervised Jefferson student Gillian Henson as she built her box.

“It’s okay if you have glue on your fingers. It’s going to take off right away,” Nauman told Gillian. “You just want to make sure your edges are all aligned.”

Nauman, a 2020 graduate of Dubuque Senior High School, said she participated in a similar after-school program as a middle school student in the district. The experience motivated her to enroll in classes such as woodworking and welding in high school, and she hoped to do the same for the girls taking classes that week.

“There aren’t many women in the trades – I’ve only had one or two on every job site I’ve been to – so inspiring other girls and having more women in the industry , it’s great,” Nauman said. .

After the girls glued the sides of their boxes together, Nauman and several district staff used nail guns to nail them in place.

As they worked, a small group of girls in an adjacent classroom worked with Joe Connolly, a senior industrial technology teacher in Dubuque, to program a computer that ran a plasma cutter to cut each girl’s name out of a metal sheet.

Hempstead welding instructor Dave Corbin then helped them use hammers and a surface grinder to smooth the surface and edges of the metal.

“Keep it along the edge over there,” he said, as Roosevelt’s eighth-grade student Ella Hopf took her turn with the grinder, sending sparks flying.

Finally, Corbin placed each girl’s piece of metal in a machine called a pan-and-box brake. One at a time, he showed them how to pull the brake levers to bend the bottom of the metal at a right angle so the nameplate would sit straight on a flat surface.

“It gives them a chance to get their hands on everyday things and projects that they can do on the shop floor,” Corbin said of the career exploration program. “It gives them a taste of what the shop is like…and the kind of class they might take in high school.”

Ella said an industrial technology course could be on her list when she enters high school in the fall.

“I think it was cool to do something that I didn’t think I could do with just a piece of metal,” she said, proudly flipping the nameplate over in her hand.

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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