Tallahassee Community College Hopes To Attract More Women To Workforce Training

Jul 14, 2019

Jermain Dickey shows a group of women how to use a CNC mill machine to cut metal shapes.
Credit Regan McCarthy / WFSU News

Last month Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill aimed at promoting workforce training for students and adults. Recently the Tallahassee Community College Manufacturing Center hosted a ladies’ night to ensure women know those opportunities are open for them too.

A group of women and girls is gathered around a CNC mill. They peer through a plexiglass window as the machine carves into a small metal slab. It wirs loudly and a few members of the group step back.

"Don’t let it intimidate you," says Jermain Dickey, a machinist instructor at Tallahassee Community College. He’s demonstrating the mill on this day and says coming into a workshop for the first time can be daunting for anyone.   

“I think no matter who you are, if you’re in a machine shop, these machines are very powerful and you can get hurt very easily so I think anybody would be intimidated. I’m still intimidated by the lathe when it cuts on,” Dickey says.

That’s why TCC is hosting a ladies’ night. Kimberly Moore is the college’s vice president for workforce innovation. She says women make up less than 25% of the workforce for jobs like manufacturing, machining and welding. And she says one reason for that is myths.

“Myths that those jobs may be ones that we have thought about in the past as ones that are dirty and not clean and that's not  [the case] because what has happened is with the evolution and infusion of technology, a lot of it has been automated. So any bad thoughts with those professions no longer exist,” Moore says.

Moore says the goal is to make sure women know these jobs are an option for them.

“95% of the folks that we just did a hand-survey with had never ever been inside the manufacturing center. So this is a first time," Moore says.

Many the people attending the ladies' night are girls with community groups or parents who've brought their daughters along with them. That’s why Kimberly Williams is attending the event.

“I have nieces and a 13- year-old daughter. So I can get the information and relay it back to them,” Williams says.

Williams says when she was growing up there weren’t as many opportunities available for women. But she says that’s changed and she wants to make sure her daughter knows that.

“The youth females. It’s like women power they can do anything that a man can do. A lot of them don’t know because with the older generation that’s something they didn’t want. But women can go into architecture, construction, auto mechanics,” Williams says.

TCC’s push to introduce more women to these fields coincides with an increased focus from state leaders like Governor Ron DeSantis on helping young people explore workforce training as route to a future career. Moore says she hopes that will mean more changes for young women to see the full range of job opportunities available to them.