Before the fun began with hammers and drills and simulated sections of wall, leaders at the Power Girls camp north of Minnesota’s Twin Cities had a question for journeywoman Jackie Bobick and her IBEW sisters.
|IBEW women including St. Paul Local 110 second-year apprentice Karmen Kjjos, above, eagerly guided Minnesota Girl Scouts through a project installing an electrical outlet and light switch on “Electrical Day” this summer, the first day of a weeklong “Power Girls” camp introducing Scouts to the trades. Photos by Logan Beere, Local 110. Check out Beere’s video of the event and another from Power Partner MN.
How many of them had been Girl Scouts?
“Nobody raised their hands,” said Bobick, a veteran member of St. Paul Local 110. “We didn’t even know any women in construction who were.”
But future tradeswomen likely will, gauged by the curiosity and glee of Girl Scouts at their camp’s first-ever “Electrical Day” in June.
Guided by women from the IBEW and signatory contractors, girls from 4th grade through high school discovered what’s going on inside the walls of their homes as they learned to install a light switch and outlet.
“I don’t know how many times I heard them say, ‘This is so cool!’ Bobick said.
Some of the girls literally jumped for joy when they push in a plug or flip a switch and see their boards electrify.
“They love to make something work,” said Breanne Hegg, vice president of programs for Girl Scouts in Minnesota. “It’s so satisfying to see that lightbulb go off on their head.”
Other days that week at Camp Lakamaga, the 68 campers learned about construction, tiling, and energy efficiency through sustainable design.
But it was only fitting for a camp dubbed Power Girls that women electricians kicked it off.
“These girls are amazing,” said fifth-year apprentice Nikki Heather of Rochester, Minn., Local 343. “They’re just full of energy and they want to learn… this is going to be our future.”
The camp’s picnic tables-turned-worksites were beehives of activity for small groups of girls divided by age. Wearing big smiles and fluorescent safety gloves, they hammered, sawed, drilled, and spliced with gusto.
“It’s really important that the girls are exposed to this now,” Heather said. “It gets the gears going, gets the juices flowing that maybe they want to go into a trade. There are some that are so ready to take on the world.”
That’s the biggest lesson that every adult involved — women and men alike — wanted to drive home: that no career is off-limits to girls today.
Andrew Colvard, assistant executive director of the St. Paul NECA Chapter, said Electrical Day drew women who span the industry — apprentices, journeywomen, forewomen, project managers and owners.
“It shows that women can do everything in the electrical trade,” Colvard said. “And we certainly need more women in our trade.”
Hegg, whose organization has held two previous Power Girls summer camps and has a growing schedule of year-round activities exploring the trades, said the girls can’t get enough of it.
“We have struggled to keep up with the insatiable appetite of girls and families for trades programming,” she said.
Future events in the planning stage are expected to include field trips to the Local 110-NECA training center.
“The girls value the chance to explore the trades in an environment with other girls, led by women who actually work in the trades,” Hegg said. “It’s incredibly valuable to see role models, to hear about what their day is like why they like their jobs.”
They got an earful — in the best sense of the word — from women who are passionate about being IBEW electricians and eager for more women to join them.
“Just go for it, don’t be scared,” Karmen Kjos, a second-year Local 110 apprentice said. “Everyone is so welcoming. If you’re happy to learn and ready to work hard, they take you in with open arms.”
|Local 110 forewoman Jackie Bobick worked with groups of middle-school girls at the camp, which drew 68 Scouts from 4th grade to high school..
Bobick’s pride and joy is palpable when she talks about her career, most of which she’s spent with Hunt Electric, the last five years in its solar division
“I’ve got the best job in the world — great money, a company vehicle, lots of freedom — and I’m really good at it,” she says.
Taking a show-and-tell approach with her groups of middle-school girls, Bobick wanted them to know they can be good at it, too, if they choose to follow in her footsteps.
“When I first got there, I had my hot suit gear, my huge rubber gloves and face shield. I told them this is what I wear to save my life.” she said.
“I let them climb around in my pickup truck. I showed them all my power tools and how to use them. I said if their mom or dad are doing repairs around the house, don’t be afraid to pick up a hammer or drill holes in the wall — well, maybe not if your mom just painted.”
Her talent for explaining elements of her trade, breaking them down in a way that students and laypeople can understand, came in handy as the girls tackled the lighting project.
“I could see that spark when they comprehended something, that lightbulb moment,” Bobick said.
“I’m so stoked and happy that my local asked me to participate. I’d absolutely do it again. I’d spend a whole week if I could.”