by Helen Hill
Girls Inc., is a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to encouraging girls to be "strong, smart, and, bold". The July 19 visit by girls and their mentors from the local Holyoke chapter provided the 8 teens who participated a unique opportunity to learn about the MGHPCC facility as well as the opportunities that abound for women in construction and related trades.
After initial introductions everyone suited up in safety vests, helmets and goggles for a tour of the building, led by Eudad Gonzalez, a project manager at Turner with special responsibility for education and outreach. Beginning on the ground floor the girls were introduced to the multiple components of the chilled water cooling systems, the back-up power equipment, the extensive network of sensors used to monitor the multiple elements of the spaghetti-like services, even the sprinkler system. The tour continued with a visit to the administration area, its offices and conference rooms, and a discussion of the design decisons that go into such things as the positioning of cooling vents, and the height of the sub-floor. On the second floor the girls were able to see for themselves the 450+ recently delivered computer racks, each the size of a walk-in refrigerator, as they were being arranged into the 20-rack "pods" that will eventually take up two thirds of the floor-space in the 1500 sq ft room.
Following the tour, the girls returned to the field office to enjoy a shared lunch and review what they had seen and learnt.
The second half of the program was aimed more specifically at educating the girls about career opportunities in construction and the associated trades. Turner had brought in half a dozen women, either currently involved with the Bigelow Street project or with other Turner projects around the region, who have made careers for themselves in construction.
Trish, an HVAC technician - who went first so she could head back out to the worksite - described how it had been the variety of things you need to understand in HVAC that first got her hooked when she took an exploratory program at vocational school.
Sheilah, an administrative assistant turned building information modeling software user, told the girls "not to be afraid of trying something new".
Susan, a licensed architect with 21 years experience in a variety of project types from residential construction to data centers, shared with the girls how rewarding she find it to watch as a project she has known from the earliest days on her drawing board becomes reality. What she loved, especially, she told them, was "not not just how it looks" but "how everything works together."
Jan, a 17 year veteran with Turner Construction, emphasised how important it was to ask questions - even ones that might seem "kind of dumb". She said that in all her years experience, she had always found everyone she encountered enormously helpful and excited to help contribute to the problem-solving that is such a key part of life in construction.
Tammie, a communications technician with Sullivan-Maclaughlin, who is also vice president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers Union, is a steward on the MGHPCC project. She spoke with obvious pride, explaining how the unique challenges presented by the MGHPCC project required innovation and that an openess to new ideas, and new methods was critical to success.
Backed by a quick analysis of Department of Labor statistics, the speakers all agreed that the field was wide open and packed with exciting and fulfilling opportunites that are "not just for the boys".
Special thanks to the staff at Girls Inc. Holyoke, especially Assistant Youth Program Coordinator, Alexandra Rivera, and Director of Youth Development Programs Sarah T. Dunton. Thanks too to Mary Belisle from Turner Construction for coordinating the event.
To find out more about Girl Inc. Holyoke visit their website.