Each year the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education recognizes students who have chosen to study specific programs based on interests and abilities, rather than traditional gender roles, with the aptly named, “Breaking Traditions Award”. Nominees for the award contribute by creating more awareness and support of all non-traditional students and programs.
Non-traditional training and employment is defined by occupations and careers where individuals from one gender comprise less than 25 percent of the individuals employed in a particular field.
Lauren Steele, an adult student in Tulsa Tech’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program, has been nominated for one of the awards this year. Her initial decision to follow this career path was not determined by her gender; it was built on her desire to find a stable career, and perform the type of work she enjoys the most.
“I chose HVAC because it is a technology that we all use every day,” Steele said. “I also enjoy the type of diagnostic work we encounter, where a component or system has failed, and finding the correct solution is kind of like solving a puzzle.”
The Broken Arrow native acknowledges there may not be many women currently working in the industry, however she has never been the type of person to back down from a challenge, especially the type of statement that usually ends with, ‘because you are a girl’.
“My family always raised me with the mindset of, ‘don’t be that same old girl’,” Steele said. “We were always encouraged to make our own choices, to be independent, and never let others keep us from achieving our goals.”
Jimmy Hawley, one of Tulsa Tech’s HVAC instructors, thinks there are plenty of opportunities in the industry for students with Steele’s unyielding drive.
“There is no doubt that Lauren is determined to learn as much as she can, in order to achieve her goals,” Hawley said. “The skills and training will provide an opportunity, but that type of determination will translate into success as she continues her career.”
Steele, a recent graduate of Inola High School, credits her instructor with providing knowledge, patience, and never hesitates to spend a little extra time to explain a particular concept or process.
“Mr. Hawley is very helpful and a great instructor,” Steele said. “He takes the time to visit with each student to make sure we have a good understanding of something before moving on to the next step. I have always felt comfortable in our class environment, especially if I need to pause or ask additional questions.”
A National Technical Honor Society recipient, this young HVAC student has already demonstrated what can happen when outstanding career training is combined with a fierce desire to succeed. Intelligence, reliability, and always working as a team player are just a few of the reasons Steele was recently offered a position as a preventive maintenance tech, with Tulsa-based Air Solutions Heating, Cooling & Plumbing.
“My responsibilities include inspecting heating and air systems,” Steele said. “I check electrical components for potential problems, monitor carbon monoxide emissions, and look for any other issues that may prevent optimal performance of the system, or present a danger to our customers. I am very thankful to Air Solutions for such a great opportunity, they are a great company, like a family, and I certainly appreciate everything they have done to help me succeed.”
Like all Tulsa Tech students, each day Lauren Steele is making her own path toward success, and she is quick to encourage other young women, regardless of their interests, to do the same.
“Just be yourself,” Steele said. “I prefer to wear a t-shirt, jeans and boots, and I enjoy hands-on work, however, I can also throw on a dress, with a little make-up, let my hair down, and do the whole ‘girl thing’. But at the end of the day, my gender will never determine my career goals, I just enjoy being me.”
If you’re currently looking for exciting classes for high school and adult students, quality customized corporate training, or determined to begin a new career, Tulsa Tech invites you to visit today. For more information, please call 918-828-5000 or visit us online at tulsatech.edu.