SALEM — Colleen Parisi wants to drive the heavy equipment. Michelle Ortiz can’t wait to operate a jackhammer.
And they will.
These aren’t experienced construction workers. They are Salem High School sophomores exploring potential careers.
Anyone who thinks a teenage girl can’t drive a backhoe or use a jackhammer better think again.
Twenty girls from the school will don hard hats and participate in the New Hampshire Construction Career Days program being held today and tomorrow at the Hopkinton State Fairgrounds in Hopkinton.
They will be joined by 54 classmates — all boys — who participate in the building trades program at Salem High’s Center for Career and Technical Education.
More than 1,100 students from 39 New Hampshire high schools will participate, including Pinkerton Academy, Londonderry High School and Sanborn Regional High School. There will be hands-on exhibits and demonstrations provided by more than 50 experts in the construction industry.
The event’s purpose is to give students a chance to consider careers in construction and related fields, including architecture and engineering, according to state Construction Career Days Chairman Catherine Schoenenberger. It’s organized in conjunction with the New Hampshire Departments of Education and Transportation.
“We really want the kids to be exposed to careers,” she said. “We have a talented, but shrinking, skilled workforce.”
A main focus is attracting more young women to the construction industry, increasing the career opportunities available to them, Schoenenberger said.
“We need more diversity in the workforce, especially in New Hampshire,” Shoenenberger said.
Schoenenberger owns her company, Bay State Traffic Products, and is a member of the National Association of Women in Construction.
While the association says the number of construction businesses owned by women is growing, females make up only 9.6 percent of that workforce.
Schoenenberger and Terry Berube, CTE student services coordinator at Salem High, hope to change that.