Empowering women of northeastern Minnesota through the skilled trades
The Northeast Higher Education District (NHED) used a Workforce Development grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation to expand the EMPOWER program from Hibbing Community College (HCC) to other colleges including Mesabi Range campuses in Virginia and Eveleth.
EMPOWER is designed to increase women’s enrollment in high-demand nontraditional fields of study such as:
Diesel and heavy equipment mechanics.
Heating and cooling technician.
I.T. networking and security.
These fields support industries across northeastern Minnesota including mining, construction, transportation and manufacturing. EMPOWER can potentially increase the earning capability of women in northeastern Minnesota as well as fill job openings at area businesses.
“As an HCC Electrical Program graduate who has worked in the electrical trade for 21 years, I saw firsthand the importance of EMPOWER and the need to increase women’s participation in the trade fields,” said Angela Heikkila, HCC EMPOWER program coordinator and Electrical Maintenance lab assistant. “EMPOWER fosters collaboration and networking between women already working in the trades and young women in high school who are deciding on career paths. EMPOWER assists women financially and offers moral support. Seeing women succeed in this program and in the trades is exciting.”
HCC has 30 women enrolled in non-traditional classes, and Mesabi Range has 12 women enrolled at its Eveleth campus. EMPOWER has assisted them with tuition, books, tools, transportation and ballistic vests for law enforcement students. EMPOWER is working to make laptops available to them while on campus, and they will soon be provided Rosie the Riveter facemasks.
Heikkila explained that the EMPOWER students have provided very positive feedback. The tuition assistance and networking support from other women are reported to be the most beneficial components of the program as they pursue their degrees.