Watervliet High School junior commands the podium at Capital Region BOCES Women in the Trades event

Student stands at podium in front of microphone looking out at audience

LaJay York, an 11th grader from Watervliet High School,  spoke to dozens of female ninth and 10th graders about her experience in the Capital Region BOCES Welding and Metal Fabrication program.

LaJay was among a handful of current Career and Technical Education students to present their perspectives during a recent Women in the Trades celebration on March 5.

“As soon as I saw someone working with an oxygen-acetylene torch, my interest was sparked,” said LaJay. “It was at that point, I knew I wanted to pursue the welding program at Capital Region BOCES. I felt an immediate desire to learn as much as possible about working with metal.”

LaJay recalled her first visit to the Albany campus and the reasons she decided to attend CTE.

“I didn’t realize the welding program was so interactive and hands on until I became a student here,” she explained. “When I was in 10th grade, I visited this campus. I met the CTE staff and some welding students. The atmosphere was very welcoming. During class time, I slowly but surely built bonds with my peers. No matter how much experience each of us have, we still support and aid each other while sharing laughs.”

Student wearing protective eye gear, a helmet and thick gloves works with welding tools.

Capital Region BOCES celebrates Women in the Trades, recruits the next generation of women skilled tradespeople

The Capital Region BOCES Celebrates Women in the Trades event featured a panel of successful women discussing their careers—including a graduate of the BOCES Career & Technical Education Center. The panelists encouraged a room full of students from seven local school districts, including Watervliet, interested in those careers to pursue them and help redefine society’s gender norms for those professions.

“Being in the trades there is a stability that you can’t find in other industries. These are jobs that a robot cannot do,” Tori Rodriguez, Account Executive for Haun Welding Supply and entrepreneur, told the young women on hand. “There’s no lack of work for people in the trades.”

Joining Rodriguez on the panel were Victoria Carl, Owner, Carl’s Advanced Automotive & Truck Repair Center and a 2017 graduate of the BOCES Diesel Tech program; Melissa Clark, Marketing Manager, North Atlantic States Carpenters Labor Management Program; Kim Heath, Journey Level Carpenter, North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters; and Crickett Thomas-O’Dell, Statewide Pre-Apprentice Program Coordinator and Director of Community Engagement, Workforce Development Institute.

Watervliet students and staff who attended the event said they appreciated hearing the perspective of successful women working in the skilled trades.

“It was very inspirational,” said Tayiona Rose Acevedo of Watervliet.

“I thought it was a great event. They all shared a lot of great ideas,” Alexandria Collier of Watervliet said.

“The rich discussions and perspectives that were shared help demystify the trades, build confidence to explore opportunities, and create a support system for young women interested in learning a trade,” said Kate McAvoy, Watervliet school counselor.

An untapped resource

According to Workwave, women are in demand as an untapped resource for skilled workers in trade jobs, because there is a predicted shortage of the labor force and anticipated growth in job opportunities. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational employment projection expects such employment to grow by 8.4 million jobs.

In the construction industry, just 10.9% of the workforce identify as women and an even smaller percentage of women–just 1%–are on the front lines of a job site, according to a 2022 article published by BizRent.com.

Many opportunities at Capital Region BOCES

Capital Region BOCES Managing Program Coordinator-Business & Community Partnerships Nancy Liddle said she takes pride in the work of the women students and graduates.

“We are proud to help such trailblazers achieve their dreams as they enter the trades in non-traditional career paths,” Ms. Liddle said, “and we encourage more young women to pursue careers in whatever skilled trades industry interests them.”