Central Education Center (CEC) is a unique partnership, a “joint venture” among business and industry, the Coweta County School System, and West Georgia Technical College. These partners formed a public steering committee in the late 1990s. The result is a charter school designed to meet the needs of a 21st Century economy by seamlessly blending secondary and post secondary education and training with business and industry.
At CEC, business and education work together to develop the best-educated and most productive workforce in U.S. history. CEC’s mission is to “ensure competitive talent for current and future careers.”
CEC's Drafting, Engineering, and Robotics Instructor, Pamela Brown, designs and teaches courses around the needs of local businesses. This allows CEC to respond to a rapidly changing economy by combining academics with expert career and technical education. She spoke with us about the engineering program at CEC and the urgent need to encourage young women to pursue AEC careers.
What inspired you to pursue a career teaching AEC to young people?
From a young age I always wanted to teach. The question was, "What did I want to teach?" I have always loved working with my hands and creating things. During high school I began taking industrial arts classes that exposed me to more wood working, graphic arts, photography, and drafting. I found a passion here that I decided to pursue. During high school and college I was often the only female in many of my classes, however, with the encouragement of my instructors I decided his was the right career for me.
What is your educational background? How/why did you select your own program(s) of study?
I attended Georgia Southern and attained bachelors, masters and educational specialist degrees in Technology Education. While in college the field was evolving from industrial arts to technology education, seeing more integration of our computers for CAD and robotics. Throughout my 30 years in the classroom, the field has continued to evolve and I have had to learn new areas within engineering and technology. This is a field that will constantly evolve as new technologies arise.
What are the biggest challenges women face, both breaking into AEC and as they progress?
The biggest challenge for any female in any engineering-related field is the perception that this is a male field and not for women. Through college I learned quickly that the guys did not think I should be in the classes that we were taking. I was more often than not the only female in the classes. By quietly sitting back, and consistently doing the work, they learned that I did know what I was doing and many accepted me into the program. During my first teaching experience I had an old school administrator who even told me women should not be teaching these subjects. I had friends that encouraged me to hang in there and not give up. I then took a teaching position in a different school system the next year and was able to grow and flourish.
Females see things from a different perspective and more often than not create different solutions to problems that males. This difference in perspective is what makes them good engineers.
Throughout my teaching career I have been able to share my knowledge and experience with my students and teachers across the country. I was able to become a respected member of the engineering and technology field. I only hope that I am able to show the young ladies that choose to take my classes that they can do anything they put their mind to.
What are the greatest opportunities for women in the industry?
The sky's the limit for females in engineering and technology related fields. The opportunities for them are endless, they just have to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and reach for their roles. What new technologies will evolve over the next 10 to 20 years are yet to be seen and these young ladies that decide to pursue these careers are on the forefront of something great.
What CEC (or other) local resources are available to young women who want to pursue architecture, engineering and construction as a career?
The programs here at the Central Educational Center are open to all Coweta County students and the opportunities for young ladies in these fields are endless. We offer them a strong foundation that will help them to be successful in college and the workplace. Through our classes and internship opportunities they can be a step ahead of those they will encounter in college.
We often ask former students, "What can we do to better prepare you and what did we do that helped you the most to be prepared for the college experience?" We take this information and work to make the CEC experience the best that it can be.
How many women have participated in construction, engineering and architecture-related programming at CEC over the years?
I would say in the engineering classes we run on average about 10 to 20 percent female depending on the semester and block. In the architecture classes we run about 40 to 50 percent, again, depending on the semester.
How can we encourage them to pursue these courses of study and eventual careers? What are the barriers (real or perceived)?
Show the opportunities and the success stories. Let them see what females are doing in these fields and what they can accomplish. Many times, we get them in class just to see what it is all about and they are then exposed to things they have never dreamed of! We have to keep encouraging and showing them the opportunities.
Click here to learn more about CEC's Pre-Engineering, Robotics, and Architectural Drafting Programs.