Some women in Walker County have made the life-changing decision to pursue careers in technical education through Bevill State Community College.
Jennifer Moseley, Brandy Cole and Veronica Hardin are three female students enrolled in technical programs at the college, and they will be the first to tell you that pursuing a technical degree was made in the best interest of their children and is the start of a new path toward financial security and job stability.
Moseley is studying electronics at Bevill State. She was formerly in the military and worked for years in retail.
She later realized a fresh start was necessary.
"It was something I was just going to do temporary (retail), and now it's been 15 years of doing something I'm not very happy with doing," she said. "I'm almost 40, and I realized you need to be happy with yourself and your career choice. I decided to change and do something better for me and for my children."
Moseley continued, "There's just a lot of opportunity. Even from the beginning, the base pay is higher than anything I probably could have done in the retail market."
Hardin received her GED from Bevill State in Sumiton 12 years ago and has recently been inspired by her sister to pursue a welding degree.
"My sister is also a welder, so she gave me some influence and made it look really cool, which is true. It is very cool to be there and have that much power beneath your hands," Hardin said.
She also decided to pursue welding to give her 6-year-old son a better life.
Hardin hopes to combine her love of art and welding to craft stained glass windows.
"I love art and it works hand in hand with learning how to weld something and put the pieces together," she said.
Cole, who is also a mother, is pursuing an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) degree at Bevill State. She says she was offered a scholarship to study and jumped on the opportunity.
"It is probably one of the best decisions I've ever made," she said.
Cole is keeping her options open while studying HVAC and said she may one day be interested in pursuing a nursing degree as well.
Maurice Ingle, the career technical education director at Bevill State, said more women are enrolling in career tech programs at the college.
According to Ingle, three women recently graduated from the college's welding program and two have already secured jobs. Another is working part-time while she finishes her associate's degree.
When the Daily Mountain Eagle interviewed Cole, Hardin and Moseley, Ingle was in attendance, and she commended the women for having the courage to study in traditionally male-dominated fields.
"I commend you because you just changed your life. The opportunities are going to be so great for all of you," she said.
Ingle added, "You do see more females (in career tech), and I think you're going to see more females in these areas as time goes on."
Bevill State Community College President Dr. Joel Hagood shared via email his thoughts about the career tech opportunities at Bevill State and said more women are enrolling in the college's CTE programs.
“Many of the Career Technical Education (CTE) programs offered by Bevill State Community College provide students an opportunity to enter into a high wage, high demand job market. As economic development continues to prosper in our region and throughout Alabama, our workforce demand continues to expand," Hagood said. "Those with manufacturing and technical degrees and certifications will be highly sought by industry."
He continued, "Currently, women are underrepresented in these professions. One example is in the growing manufacturing industry of welding — women only represent approximately 5 percent of the workforce. As I visit the Bevill State campuses, it is encouraging to see women begin to realize that these careers are a very viable option for their future.”
Bevill State currently offers the Raising the Financial Bar for Women Through Career Technical Education Scholarship, in partnership with the Women's Fund of Greater Birmingham, in order to help women financially who want to pursue careers in technical education.
Courtney Reeves, a success coach for Bevill State, said women who receive the scholarship also receive assistance with job applications, resume building and more.
Reeves also helps single mothers through Thrive Together Walker County. The women are provided with a number of helpful resources and assisted with career development. Some of the women even go on to secure careers after earning degrees at Bevill State.
Scholarship opportunities for women at Bevill State can be found by visiting https://www.bscc.edu/students/scholarship-applications, and Thrive Together Walker County also has resources for women at http://www.thrivetogetherwc.com/.
Hardin says women should not be intimidated to pursue technical careers, even if they may be the only woman in a classroom.
"Just because it's a male-dominated field doesn't mean that you can't put your own spin on it or go in there and do the same thing and come out just as well off as they are," she said. "I get to show my child, 'Hey, I can do this too.' You can do what you want to do. It doesn't matter who normally does that job ... you can still do it."
Cole added, "Don't let people get in the way of you pursuing your dreams. If it's something you want to do, do it."
Moseley said she considers this new lease on life a blessing that she's not going to take for granted.
"Be confident and don't let any kind of stereotype define you. Be the person that you want to be," Moseley said in her advice to other women. "Go for it if it makes you happy and is going to be good for your future. Don't let fear hold you back."
For more education news from the Daily Mountain Eagle, visit http://www.mountaineagle.com/education.