We can do it!
MHS will offer all-girls metal tech class to encourage female participation in the field
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — In an effort to attract more female students to a traditionally male-dominated field, Marshfield High School (MHS) has developed a girls-only section of an introductory metal technology course, which it will offer next school year if enough students enroll.
The metal tech courses cover topics such as machining, welding, sheet metal, and layout fabrication.
“(We are) trying to give them a real world experience to open their eyes to some of the different careers available and to properly prepare them for those careers upon completion of high school,” said MHS metal tech instructor Ben Will.
Will said that only 10 girls are currently enrolled in the metal tech curriculum out of 140 total students. He noted that one of the central purposes of offering a girl-only class is that some female students may be intimidated by the thought of entering a male-dominated environment. In effect, the goal of the class is to reduce the barrier to entry for females.
“My thought is, my hope is that they’re going to feel a little bit more safe and comfortable and maybe have a better chance of wanting to take the class, realize they’re good at it, realize there’s a career and a future in it, and then stick with it, potentially find their niche,” Will said.
The curriculum for the all-girls section of the course will be the exact same as all other sections.
Will said that when he talks with companies in fields related to the courses he teaches, they tell him, “There are not enough people to fill the jobs available.”
Will thinks that tapping into the other half of the population, the female demographic, is the answer to providing a more robust workforce for these companies. He added that as people realize that the metal tech discipline is now more about a high level of skill than it is about intensive labor, more girls may be drawn to the field.
“It is highly precise, and it requires a very highly talented person to do this type of work,” Will said. “There is an unbelievable future out there for people with this type of talent.”
The girls currently enrolled in metal tech
The girls already enrolled in the metal tech curriculum, who do not currently have the option of an all-female class, are special, Will said.
“They’re tough. They don’t take anything from anybody,” Will said, adding that these girls are some of his best students.
Current metal tech student Hannah Ussery said trying to fit into the male-dominated setting is challenging.
“It’s kind of intimidating,” Ussery said. “There’s just a stereotype that girls can’t get their hands dirty too.”
Allie Eckes, who is an advanced student in metal tech and is taking her senior capstone course in the program now, said her progress as a student has given her confidence.
“It’s basically a way to put myself out there and show the community, other people, that there’s girls that can succeed in life with a male-dominated field,” Eckes said. “Girls take pride in their work. I’m super picky about what my finished product will look like. I take my time, and basically, with me welding, I basically say my welds are my signature. That’s who I am.”
The female students praised Will’s skill as a teacher, his knowledge of the subject matter, and his support of girls participating in metal tech.
“He’s pushed me along the way to (get) where I am today,” Eckes said. Eckes currently works at Staab Construction and wants to attend UW-Stout for construction management.
Will noted that some courses he teaches can now earn students credit at technical colleges — much like an advanced placement course where students may earn credits that transfer to a four-year university.