MCS Student is Featured Speaker at Women in the Trades Event

Ashley Moorhead speaks behind podium.
MCS senior Ashley Moorhead speaks at podium.

MCS senior Ashley Moorhead was a featured speaker as students from regional schools attended a panel discussion highlighting women with successful trades careers in the skilled trades on March 5.

The Capital Region BOCES Celebrates Women in the Trades event featured women speaking about their careers—including a graduate of the BOCES Career & Technical Education Center. 

The panelists encouraged a room full of students from seven local school districts interested in those careers to pursue them and help redefine society’s gender norms for those professions.

“Being in the trades there is a stability that you can’t find in other industries. These are jobs that a robot cannot do,” Tori Rodriguez, Account Executive for Haun Welding Supply and entrepreneur, told the young women on hand. “There’s no lack of work for people in the trades.”

Women speak during panel discussion.
North Atlantic State Carpenters Labor Management Program Marketing Manager Melissa Clark.

Joining Rodriguez on the panel were Victoria Carl, Owner, Carl’s Advanced Automotive & Truck Repair Center and a 2017 graduate of the BOCES Diesel Tech program; Melissa Clark, Marketing Manager, North Atlantic States Carpenters Labor Management Program; Kim Heath, Journey Level Carpenter, North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters; and Crickett Thomas-O’Dell, Statewide Pre-Apprentice Program Coordinator and Director of Community Engagement, Workforce Development Institute.

Also speaking were current students pursuing careers in the skilled trades LaJay York, Welding and Metal Fabrication junior from Watervliet; Chloe Armstrong, Welding and Metal Fabrication senior from Schoharie; and Hope Caulfield, Automotive Trades Technology senior from Schalmont.   Moorhead, who is enrolled in the Heavy Equipment Operation, Maintenance & Repair told prospective students that she had been sitting in their chairs three years ago.

“Attending this event opened my eyes seeing that it is very common for us women to be in this industry and that it’s not as uncommon as people think it is in today’s world,” said Moorhead. “My teacher, Mr. Millard was one of my biggest inspirations during my high school career alongside my dad. Both Mr. Millard and my dad, who are in the industry, encourage me to give my best every day despite what others say. They push me to continue the journey and support me daily to complete my life goals.”

Student speaking at podium.
CSD student studying Welding and Metal Fabrication LaJay York speaks during Women in the Trades Panel Discussion.

Moorhead’s peers also talked about their path to the trades

“As soon as I saw someone working with an oxygen-acetylene torch, my interest was sparked. It was at that point, I knew I wanted to pursue the welding program at Capital Region BOCES. I felt an immediate desire to learn as much as possible about working with metal,” said York.

Armstrong said that she had some initial apprehension about pursuing a career in the skilled trades, but those fears soon faded.

“When I walked into a classroom full of all boys, I was very skeptical….but now they are all like my brothers,” she said.

The panelists said women have a special role in the skilled trades, bringing skills like time management, attention to detail and organization that their male counterparts might not necessarily have.

“We definitely bring a safety mindset to the workplace,” Heath said. 

The panelists also encouraged the young women to make connections, “build their tribe” and pursue their passions.

“Through BOCES, I learned how to network and deal with people,and that is extremely important in every job you have,” said Carl.

Rodriguez added that “finding a group of women helps you know you are not alone.”

The young women who attended the event hailed from the Schenectady, Troy, Watervliet, Berne-Knox-Westerlo (BKW), Schenectady and Cobleskill-Richmondville school districts.

They said they appreciated hearing the perspective of women about working in the skilled trades. 

“I thought it was a great event. They all shared a lot of great ideas,” Alexandria Collier of Watervliet said.

BKW attendee Trista Smy said she enjoyed learning about the options that exist, adding that she is pursuing the trades because “I like being hands-on.”

“It was very inspirational,” said Tayiona Rose Acevedo of Watervliet.

The panel discussion was a key part of the month-long celebration Capital Region BOCES is hosting for Women in the Trades Month.

An untapped resource

According to Workwave, women are in demand as an untapped resource for skilled workers in trade jobs, because there is a predicted shortage of the labor force and anticipated growth in job opportunities. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational employment projection expects such employment to grow by 8.4 million jobs.

In the construction industry, just 10.9% of the workforce identify as women and an even smaller percentage of women–just 1%–are on the front lines of a job site, according to a 2022 article published by

Many opportunities at Capital Region BOCES

Capital Region BOCES Managing Program Coordinator-Business & Community Partnerships Nancy Liddle said she takes pride in the work of the women students and graduates.

“We are proud to help such trailblazers achieve their dreams as they enter the trades in non-traditional career paths,” Liddle said.

Liddle, one of the organizers of the luncheon, said “we love encouraging young women to be trailblazers in whatever industry they are interested in.

Photo credit: Erica Miller/ Capital Region BOCES