STOCKTON, Calif. — It never crossed 17-year-old Ariana Lopez's mind that she could one day be behind the controls of a massive Caterpillar excavator. But on Friday, she did just that.
"It's actually exciting to see all the machines that they use for like, construction and all that," said Lopez, a senior at McNair High School in Stockton.
Lopez was one of 150 young women from area high schools at San Joaquin Delta College's 4th annual Non-traditional Employment for Women event.
The students are exposed to jobs more commonly associated with men like construction, welding, robotics, electrical and more.
"The reality is that the machines don't care who works on them as long as you can understand the equipment," said Delta College Diesel & Heavy Equipment Tech Program Associate Professor Brad Hannan. "If you can pick up a wrench, you can turn a wrench."
He had a pair of Caterpillar excavators set-up so the students could take a turn actually operating the machines under supervision.
Laura Ortiz is already two years into the three year Delta College program. She works as a diesel mechanic apprentice at Stockton's Regional Transit District.
"At first, guys are like it's just a girl trying to be a mechanic, but like, when I start talking or I know something and they're like, 'wait she actually knows what's she's talking about' they get confused," Ortiz said.
Delta College student Savannah Proctor is learning to be an HVAC specialist and one day hopes to own her own company.
"Not only is the pay good, but it's also not a BS job where it's not worth anything," Proctor said. "If you do it right you'll always be worth something."
According to the National Association of Women in Construction, nearly one out of 10 women hold construction jobs.
The NAWIC said women on average earn 81.1 percent of what men do. In construction, women earn on average 95.7 percent of what men do.
If you are interested in a vocational career, visit San Joaquin Delta College Certificate Programs.
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