WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Jobs in the trade industry took a hard hit during the economic downturn. But experts predict job creation to pick up soon, especially for workers in "non-traditional" roles.
A program at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau is designed to help get students past the stereotype. The Non-Traditional Occupations Program at NTC helps students achieve success in roles typically filled by the opposite gender.
Brenda Cichon is welding student at NTC. She enrolled in the program with her husband after they were both laid off last year.
"The government is helping us by funding us and paying for us to go back to school," she explained. "So we were happy to come back to NTC and join a program that was good for both of us."
Brenda's one of only 2 women in the entire welding program. And she isn't bothered by it one bit.
"I think it's a good job for women and more women should do it," she said.
NTC apprentice and technical programs currently have more than 350 non-traditional students. And program leaders say taking the road less traveled is to the students advantage.
"Especially if you start to compare them," said Program Coordinator Dan Nowak. "If I'm a female going into welding and I compare that to my counterpart who might be in a traditional female role, I'm probably going to make 20% to 30% better wages in that role."
The coordinator also says the students have a higher job placement percentage after graduation because often times, employers seek out non-traditional workers.
"It's so important for anyone not to be held back by what the stereotype is in our culture," Nowak said. "So if there are females out there who would like to go into what we term a non-traditional career, if they really think that they would do a good job in welding or machine tool, really try to follow that dream."
It's a dream Brenda Cichon is hoping sparks a career.
"Women can do anything they want," she said. "It's not always easy, but it's not hard. If I can do it at 45years old, anyone can do it."
The program also sees a fair share of men seeking non-traditional jobs. The coordinator says out of the 350 non-traditional students, 70% are women and 30% are men.