Throughout this spring, MSU employees are volunteering their time to Women in Skilled Trades (WIST), a program co-founded by MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) Analyst Carol Cool and Tori Menold of Granger Construction. Through this program, women are introduced to well-paying career opportunities in the construction industry.
“At its core, we created WIST to help women get started in a career that would earn them a living wage and provide the benefits we all need,” said Cool. “I helped start WIST because it spoke to my desire to give back and would use my lifelong passion for building and learning.”
The WIST program currently underway is a 13-week Apprenticeship Readiness Program (ARP) hosted at MSU. Cool said, “Michigan State University has been one of our biggest assets, by providing WIST free training space, volunteers to train students and believing in our mission. The University’s support from management to staff, in particular from IPF, has enabled WIST to get up and running as a nonprofit without the burden of needing constant fundraising.”
Employees from IPF and MSU IT have shaped the content of the ARP courses. MSU Telecommunication Operations Manager Doug Resseguie and his wife, Angela led an introductory Telecom class in April. The hands-on class walked the women through a real-world telecom scenario. The group used plan grid software to see what a real blueprint would look like if they were walking around campus. They were given a chance to see beyond the walls of MSU down to the wiring that makes the buildings run, and the lights stay on. Each woman was given the tools and materials to install a network data line, which mimicked real work done in the field.
Resseguie was proud to introduce the women in his class to his trade, even if they don’t use the skills for telecom. “Now they know how to terminate and test a data line,” he said. “These hands-on skills link our virtual technology to the real world physically.”
Resseguie has worked at MSU for ten years, and in that time, he observed a shortage of women in IT and skilled trades. He said, “This gap starts with the application process, the number of female applicants is disproportionately low. The last six job postings from my team generated over one hundred applications, but only one was from a woman. And that is something we need to address. I want anybody who wants to work to have a chance to work.”
Resseguie taught this class last year. In addition to the hands-on portion, he delivered a brief history lesson in where telecom once was, going back to the telegraph. He brought the class up to modern day fiber optics and discussed innovations yet to come.
“Telecom is an industry that continues to grow and evolve. What you are doing today, may not be what you are doing tomorrow. This is a job with a lot of possibilities coming and a lot of opportunity for the future.”
Event organizer Leisa William-Swedberg, Performance Manager at IPF, said they valued the contributions of MSU’s employees. She explained that a previous graduate of the apprenticeship program found a job in the telecom field which could have been the result of the splicing activity taught by Resseguie and Telecommunication Mechanic Aaron McCoy from MSU IT in the previous year.
Cool said the contribution from MSU is essential to the program. Adding, “MSU is helping us to change women’s lives, and we are very grateful for that.”
For more information about WIST visit https://www.wistmichigan.org.