A student learns to bend conduit at last year’s camp.

Thirty-two girls are going to spend this week at a camp that could end up having a big impact on their career choice.

Jeannette Thomas says the Construction Camp for Girls in Des Moines introduces them to possible jobs they might never have considered.  “Just trying to introduce these students to careers that are non-traditional for their gender. So, a non-traditional career would be an occupation where less than% percent employed in that area are male or female,” Thomas explains.

The girls are between 14 and 18 years old and Thomas says they start by introducing them to women leaders in the fields before going into some hands-on stuff. “For example, our first day will be doing masonry. Then the next day we’ll do electrical, we’ll do construction. We are going to wrap up the week doing some volunteer work with one of the Habitat for Humanity homes — so they’ll have a chance to give back in that sense,” according to Thomas.

She says this type of experience gives a full view of what’s involved in construction. “When you think about building a building you are just thinking about hammers and nails,” Thomas says. “You don’t think about all the other things that go into acquiring the land, the logistics, the real estate part of it. So there’s a lot more to construction.”

Thomas says introducing the girls to construction can lead them into the field and help fill a gap in the number of workers available to do the jobs. She wants to see the program continue and get bigger. “This is the second year, we hope to do it annually, and we want to expand and just do this throughout the state,” Thomas says. “So if there are any educators or business and industry folks who are interested in doing this in their community, they just contact me and we can set this up. And we can do this anywhere throughout the state in looking at different occupational areas.”

The camp is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education, Des Moines Public Schools, Homebuilders of Iowa and Turner Construction and will start each morning at the Des Moines Public Schools’ Central Campus.