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Options Open for Nontraditional Students at Hill College

12.12.14

Are certain occupations reserved for men, and others for women? For example, should only men be in welding and only women in nursing? Not at Hill College, where men and women are encouraged to explore professions that might be considered non-traditional for them. And employers are eager to hire them.

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            Consider Susan Peden, a former surgical transcriptionist. She likes working on cars. She picked it up on her own, and now she’s learning to do it right in Hill College’s SnapOn Automotive Technology program, and getting certified for a top job.

            What’s it like in the shop with a bunch of men? “At first a few of them would edge me out of doing things and take over. But now they know there’s nothing they can do that I can’t do. We get along great.” Peden said.

            Her instructor Brandon Brown stressed that today’s auto shops are clean working environments, and most of the work is done on computers. He said he’s proud of Peden, but not at all surprised by her success in the shop or the fact that she’s a dean’s list student.

            “A lot of women have hands-on skills and enjoy it. They make good money. And they work 8 to 5,” Brown said. “It gives them the ability to be with their family on a traditional schedule.”

            Can women be as good at auto mechanics as men? Absolutely, Brown said. “They’re organized and responsible. The boss knows he can count on a woman to show up for work and pay attention to detail.”

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Chrystal Kent is training at the Hill College Fire Academy. The former nursing assistant wants to be certified as both a firefighter and emergency medical technician. That means she’ll spend almost all her working days and nights with men, who dominate the fire protection and safety profession; but she’s up to it. She was more concerned about fire, but she’s learning to deal with that, too.

“I thought I was going to be standing outside the burning building waiting for the firefighters to bring me the patients,” Kent said. “But it turns out, I have to go in, too!”

She’s loving it. “It’s fun, challenging and rewarding,” Kent said. Her instructor David Humphries said she is doing great. Humphries actually works as a firefighter in Arlington and attests to the fact that female firefighters are rare. His department of 385 has eight women, he said.

Why did Kent choose this occupation? It’s a challenge that fits her disposition: She likes a fast pace and she doesn’t like to be inside a building all day. And she knows there are high-paying opportunities for those who are certified both for fire and EMT. She wants to take it to the highest level by earning paramedic certification.

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So, what’s a guy to do? Well, Ben Umoeka, originally from Nigeria, doesn’t think the healthcare professions should be reserved for just women. Working as a service tech for a cable company, Umoeka decided he wanted to work more closely with people. 

“I like talking to people, taking care of them and helping them,” he said.

He chose a course of study that will qualify him for a great job in one year: Echocardiography. In fact, he’s working in a hospital while he studies. In this field, which is similar to ultrasound technology, technicians help patients with early detection of potential problems like hypertension, lung disease, heart valve problems, cancers or tumors.

            Umoeka’s instructor Julie Britain said there is no reason men can’t work in the female-dominated healthcare professions, so long as they are caring and detail oriented. “Sometimes male patients prefer to have a male scan them,” she said.

            Echocardiography is a good field with steady employment and jobs all over the world, Britain said.

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            These are just three of many areas where students can find opportunities in non-traditional fields. Some others are Welding, Vocational Nursing, Cosmetology, Office Administration, and other health professions. To look into training for these and other occupations at Hill College, call 254-659-7500.