Wallingford event features career options for girls: ‘Don’t be intimidated by anyone.’

WALLINGFORD — High paying jobs — and many that don't require a college education — are out there, but have historically been dominated by men. On Saturday, the Wallingford Public Library will host a workshop for girls in grades seven through 12 to introduce them to fields that they might not otherwise have considered as a career.

"Unique Careers: An Exploration Event for Teen Girls" takes place Saturday from 9:45 a.m. to noon at the library at 200 North Main St. The Wallingford Community Women's Education Committee partnered with the library to coordinate the event. 

"Initially it started as looking at careers for women so that they wouldn't be incurring a lot of college debt, trades and things like that, because of all the awful college debt kids are going into," said Mary Reid, a member of the Wallingford Community Women. "But we also didn't want to discourage girls from going to college, so we expanded it to nontraditional careers for women. We started thinking about getting computer scientists, electrical engineers and things that were more male-dominated fields."

More than a dozen women will be on hand to talk to the girls about their careers, including Megan Magoveny, a Wallingford police officer; Isabel Caban, a firefighter with the Waterbury Fire Department; Christine White, a surgical veterinarian with Small Animal Surgical Service of Connecticut; Nicole Huelsman, a welder/ironworker with Atlantic Equipment Installers of Wallingford, and Koreeda Siconolfi, an electrical engineer. 

It’s the first event in a series the Wallingford Community Women are calling OPEN, which stands for Opportunities, Possibilities, Exploration, NOW!

The girls will have the opportunity to learn about the fields, as well as the schooling or training needed and what the jobs entail. Each woman will be stationed at a table, and the teens will visit each table to learn about each career.

Kelly Flynn didn’t have to look far for a good paying career opportunity in a field traditionally dominated by men. Flynn is a plumber apprentice with Charles Flynn Plumbing and Heating in Wallingford, the business owned by her father, and is one of the women who will be at the event.

"My dad is a plumber so I started working with him and got the hang of it, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is a good career,’" Flynn said. "I enjoy working with my hands so it's a good fit."

But it's also a long road before she will be a licensed plumber. The apprenticeship lasts about four years and requires 8,000 hours of work, said Flynn, a Lyman Hall High School graduate. She attended Eli Whitney Technical High School's plumbing and heating program, where she was the only girl in her class, she said. 

"They were all great," she said of her male classmates. "I made friends with a couple of them."

According to the job website Zippia.com, only 5.3% of plumbers in the United States are women, so Flynn is joining an elite group, and salary estimates are as high as $100,000 a year for experienced plumbers. And Flynn said she loves the job.

"There's always something new every day," she said. "You never know what you'll be working on and it's nice when you feel accomplished after you fix something that had been giving you a hard time."

Early on she faced some obstacles, such as lifting heavy objects like toilets, but she quickly overcame them.  

"I remember I couldn't pick one up by myself when I first started," she said, "and now it's no problem."

Her advice to the teens she'll be talking to Saturday? 

"Don't be intimidated by anyone,” she said. “Just work hard and learn as much as you can and if anyone gets to you, prove them wrong."



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