Female enrollment increases 100 percent in SOWELA's PTEC program - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Female enrollment increases 100 percent in SOWELA's PTEC program

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - With more high-paying jobs opening in local plants, connected to Southwest Louisiana’s anticipated economic growth, women are looking to capitalize on the opportunity.

We’re seeing the trickle down effect locally as more women are studying in fields like Process Technology or PTEC with hopes of working in the plants once they graduate.

In just two years, enrollment has doubled in SOWELA’s PTEC program. But it’s the increase in women that’s capturing attention.

Between fall of 2012 and fall of 2013, female enrollment in SOWELA's PTEC program increased by 100%.

“The money is in Process Technology, so I came here,” said Samantha Carlile, a student in SOWELA’s PTEC program.

Carlile is a current students. So is Meagan Hayes.

They're part of the growing number of women studying PTEC at SOWELA; a school designed as a step towards working in the plants.

“We teach people to operate units, run units in plants,” explained Richard Koonce, a PTEC Instructor at SOWELA.

Koonce has seen the increase of female student’s first-hand.

“My first year here, we had a few females. I think we've had a couple more every semester,” said Koonce.

“Since I've been here, the female in classes has increased. We went from maybe two to half of the class sometimes,” added Hayes.

And they say what's historically been known as a career for men, has now opened up for them, thanks to improvements in technology.

“True, it is still a male dominated field but we are here and can do the work just as well as they can. It's not as hard or physical as it may seem to be at first,” said Hayes.

“There are tools and instruments to make the job easier,” added Carlile.

“It's demanding as far as hours and shift work, but in most cases it's very easy to do. It's not too much manual labor anymore,” said Koonce.

And with the demand here, women are looking to capitalize on the opportunity. Samantha and Meagan, who graduate this year, are already job hunting.

“I'm actively applying for jobs right now and I'm hoping to get a job soon as an operator,” said Carlile.

“The jobs are wide open for them. Plants like to hire them. It's a good paying job,” added Koonce.

While Hayes says they do anticipate challenges being female, “It sometimes may have been a little bit harder than the guys I've been working with. But it was definitely able to be done.”

They say they look forward to facing those challenges head on and encourage others to do the same, no matter the age, ethnicity or gender.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” said Carlile.

Both Samantha and Meagan graduate this year from SOWELA’s PTEC program but already intern in local plants: Samantha at Sasol, Meagan at Westlake Chemical.

For information on SOWELA’s PTEC program: http://www.sowela.edu/process_tech.asp

Upcoming job information: http://allianceswla.org/

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