Women Find Interest In Nontraditional Fields

Women’s Fund Grant Supports YWCA Initiative

A few years ago, a woman staying at the YWCA’s shelter wanted to make a change for her and her family. She wanted to go back to school, but didn’t think it was feasible with a child at home. When an opportunity arose to try an eight-week manufacturing program through NDSCS, she decided to participate through the support of the YWCA and a grant from the skills and technology program. After completing the training, she secured employment, moved out of the YWCA’s housing program and is now supporting herself and her two children while completing her associate’s degree.

This story inspired the staff at the YWCA to start an initiative focused on providing training for women in nontraditional fields. “We thought this was a tremendous opportunity because a lot of the women in our shelter and housing are not employed. One of the major things we work on with women is education and employment,” said Julie Haugen, Associate Director of the YWCA. “We’re all about empowerment at the YWCA.”

The new program, Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), is a partnership between the YWCA and NDSCS. The reason the YWCA decided to focus on nontraditional jobs for women is two-fold.

“In a few months, women are able to receive training to dramatically improve their income to support their families. We also thought this was a great opportunity because of the state’s economy. It’s a great way to quickly train women and help them fill the thousands of jobs that are currently vacant in these fields,” Haugen said.

A grant from the FM Area Foundation’s Women’s Fund will fully support the program for the first year. The grant money will go toward tuition, as well as providing transportation and childcare, which are barriers that often keep women from furthering their education or finding employment.

“The Women’s Fund is driven to improve and impact the quality of life for all people by enriching the lives of women and girls in the Cass-Clay community,” said Marcia Paulson, volunteer chair of the Women’s Fund. “Our recent grant award to support the YWCA’s NEW program is an investment.  When women exercise self-determination and begin to identify themselves as leaders and providers for their families, our community is better for it.”

The women at the YWCA shelter and in the housing program will be able to choose if they want to participate and if they have an interest in a nontraditional field, such as welding or manufacturing.

“For many of the women, it’s the first time they’ve had the opportunity to choose what they want to do. Most of the women that come to us have been victims of domestic abuse,” Haugen said. “The women we serve are hard-working and want to support their children, and we’re helping them do that.”

The women participating in the NEW initiative will be an inspiration to their children and to other women in similar situations.

The YWCA plans to launch the NEW initiative this fall. Their goal is to have 5-10 women complete the program by fall 2015.

To make a donation to the FM Area Foundation’s Women’s Fund to support important initiatives like this one, click Give Online.