Almost five years ago, John Schroepfer, a retired electrician and former electrical contractor business owner from St. Paul, Minn., and his wife Linda, the mother of three girls, retired board member of Girl Scouts River Valley and a perpetual Girl Scouts volunteer, came up with an idea to interest girls in the electrical trade.
They approached Sara Shaw Meyer, director of development for the Girl Scouts River Valleys. Not long after, the St. Paul and Minneapolis NECA chapters, and three IBEW locals—110, 292 and 343—forged a partnership with the Girl Scouts Council.
Since 2021, the partnership has yielded annual day-long Power Girls trade workshops at four local Minnesota JATCs and NECA-IBEW participation in an annual Girls Scout summer camp trades event.
About 200 girls per year, from grades 4–12, have participated, said Andrew Colvard, assistant executive director of the St. Paul NECA Chapter. Two former Girl Scouts applied to electrical apprenticeships, and still others have applied to a community college program geared toward the electrical trade.
“I think the biggest value is we are enabling young women to step out of their comfort zones and figure out how to do something they don’t normally think about doing,” Colvard said. “They get the lesson of working with tools and working in a group, which gives them confidence. We can think of the value of this program more from a confidence-building standpoint than strictly convincing them to enter the electrical field.”
The girls set up light sockets, install outlets and bend conduit under the guidance of IBEW and NECA volunteers, as well as from program sponsors Graybar Electric, Viking Electric, Milwaukee Tool, 3M and Schneider Electric.
Like Colvard, Sarah Nowicki, IBEW 343 journey-level electrician, observed that working with tools and doing the tasks gave the girls a tremendous confidence boost. “Whether they ever touch another piece of conduit again, it opened them up to other nontraditional things a girl can do,” Nowicki said in video coverage.
Sean Sannes, president of IBEW 343, said, “It’s important for young generations to get exposed earlier rather than later because once they get to be a certain age in high school, people are already steering them to college and the military and other things. They don’t realize that the trades exist and that they’re a great opportunity.”
At the 2023 Power Girls Electrical Day at Camp Lakamaga near St. Croix, Marisa Williams, CEO of Girl Scouts River Valleys, thanked NECA and IBEW for exposing “our girls to careers that until today they didn’t know existed.” She also suggested the experience would help them become “leaders and change-makers in this world.”
The St. Paul and Minneapolis NECA chapters encourage other NECA chapters to consider organizing similar Power Girl programs with the Girl Scouts. For more information, email Colvard at [email protected] or Kristin Causby, assistant executive director at the Minneapolis NECA chapter, at [email protected].
Header image: Girl Scouts participate in a Power Girl career workshop organized by St. Paul and Minneapolis NECA chapters. Photos supplied by St. Paul NECA Chapter