Local Learning: Equal opportunity efforts alive and well in 2018

By: Barb Embacher
February 1, 2018

One of the greatest rewards of working for a community and technical college is the ability to open up the doors of education and opportunity to virtually everyone. At South Central College, we work continuously to eliminate barriers that may keep potential students from beginning or finishing a degree. Recently, South Central College did away with the application fee that most colleges charge in order to remove yet another potential stumbling block for the student. Students can now apply to SCC free of charge year-round.

Part of our mission is to provide equal access for all students — to all programs. This effort includes encouraging women to pursue traditionally male dominated careers and providing men with the support to pursue careers that have traditionally been filled by women.

Barb Embacher

One of the programs that skews male is culinary arts. In December, South Central held a culinary arts student competition called “The Amazing Culinary Race.” The fast-paced skills event featured more than a dozen different action stations to be completed in four hours and challenged participants to bring their best cooking techniques to the table.

The event was part of SCC’s work with the Southern Minnesota Perkins Consortium, which seeks to identify technical programs that are primarily pursued by one gender or another – and then take steps to encourage greater participation by the non-traditional gender.

Culinary arts has generally attracted primarily male students, but with added emphasis on recruiting and advising directed toward women, SCC’s program now has more than the average percentage of female students in its culinary arts program.

Another traditional male career track runs through our advanced manufacturing area and includes programs in machining, energy technical specialist, mechatronics engineering technology and welding. Here again, we are seeing more women join these programs, prompted to pursue these areas of specialization by the higher than average starting salaries and apprenticeship opportunities. A new era of technical and technological upgrades have improved working conditions in machine shops and manufacturing facilities and made modern advanced manufacturing occupations more palatable and appealing for women — and men.

Conversely, South Central College is seeing more men engage in traditional female vocations as well. Nursing, which has been looked upon historically as a women’s profession, is beginning to see a real and consistent upsurge in male participation. According to a 2013 U.S. Census Report, in 1970, just 2.7 percent of registered nurses in the U.S. were male. That number more than tripled by 2013. Correspondingly, the proportion of male licensed nurses doubled, going from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent. At SCC, 30 percent of the fall 2017 nursing graduates were male.

With these kinds of positive, affirming results, SCC will steadfastly carry on with its work to encourage students to pursue career areas based not on traditional gender roles, but to find the best career option for their individual interests, strengths, competencies and goals.

Barb Embacher is the Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at South Central College, formerly serving as the college’s Dean of Career and Technical Education.

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