Photo by Valerie Shelton – Members of Clovis High’s Women in Construction club, from L-R standing are Alyssa Smith and advisor Jay Eichmann, and seated L-R are Katelynn Flash, Nicole Berry, Chantel Berry and Chloe Swetzer.
By Valerie Shelton, Editor
Slats of wood are measured and sawed to size before being pieced together with nails and screws. Then, after everything is constructed, it’s time for sanding.
This is the process that a group of young women in Clovis High’s Women in Construction Club went through earlier this month, when putting together picnic tables to give away to non-profits Breaking the Chains, an anti-human trafficking organization, and the Evangel Home, which provides homes for abused women and their children.
The picnic table project and donation was made possible by members of the local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) as part of the celebration of National Women in Construction Week (March 7-13).
Club advisor Jay Eichmann said the project is exciting because not only are his students able to build something to donate to two deserving organizations, but because the project is bringing some attention to the Women in Construction Club, which is relatively new in its third year being offered at Clovis High. Few high schools, he said, offer such a club. The Career and Technical Education courses for construction began at Clovis High about eight years ago, and students from all the Clovis Unified schools are welcome to participate, but traditionally Eichmann say few female students get involved in the class or construction club. Since starting the club specifically for women, more girls have got involved. Last year, a team of three girls even won the Career Skills Challenge, a regional competition held at Fresno City College—a rarity as few girls enter the challenge for construction, let alone a whole team of girls.
“On the competitive team, we only a three-girl team, but in our club, when we have really fun events we can get as many as 20 girls to come out but typically between 10 and 20 is our regular turnout,” Eichmann said. “The class is different. You can be in the club without having to be in the class and a lot of the girls do that because their schedules are so full it is hard to get these classes because they have so many other required classes to take. That is the nice thing about the club. They are able to get the chance to do construction without having to worry about having room in their schedule.”
The NAWIC has recognized the young club’s interests and is moving to officially affiliate with the Cougar group, which is a first in the nation, Eichmann said. “They are working to offer some scholarships to our senior ladies looking to continue their education towards a construction-related career or apprenticeship.”
Eichmann said the partnership between CHS and NAWIC will help show young women the many opportunities in the construction industry and help close the gap that exists male-dominated industry.
“Target participation for women in the industry is 20 percent, but as of now, the overall participation is below that mark,” Eichmann said.
Senior Nicole Berry, the club’s vice president, said she has learned a lot from participating in both the club and the CTE class. Berry said she has learned how to build everything from benches that hold potted plants, to a garden trellis, a solar system, a greenhouse and a fog catcher water collection system.
“I’ve always been interested in construction because my family is in construction and one day I was out looking for clubs and I saw it and said, ‘yes, I’m doing it,’ because no one else would think to sign up because they think, oh it is only for boys and not girls, but I wanted to do it,” Berry said. “I love building stuff with my hands.”
Sophomore Katelynn Flash is also in both the club and the class and said she is absolutely thrilled that Clovis High offers the construction program because that is a field she plans on going into after high school.
“I love construction,” Flash said. “I’m glad I got into this club and I also signed up for the class. It is fun and it is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always been a hands-on construction kind of person. I’ve done auto also. It is fun and it is also what I want to go into for my career. I want to go into the military and be a CB, which is a construction builder and manager, because I’ve always wanted to serve my country and do construction and until I came to Clovis High, I didn’t know those two things were even a possibility to put together. I met Jay Eichmann and he told me about it and it was great so I’m going to do construction throughout my high school years.”