ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- With a large part of the current labor force heading for retirement, ComEd is looking to find its next crop of skilled workers with its Tools of the Trade program.
"If you see other females going into the program, it's more like, 'Hey, if she did it, I can do it too," said student Amaya Castanon.
Kicking off its first year in the Forest City, a new program hopes to get teens interested in skilled work.
"ComEd is partnering with Boys and Girls Club in the area, so we have students ages 16-18 years old. They're here for 7 weeks, they earn a stipend so it's a ‘learn and earn’ type program," said Hannah McGoldrick.
The pre-apprenticeship gives students hands-on experience working in areas like mechanics and line work to get a feel for what it's like to work for the energy company.
"We're trying to reach that generation and talk about different career options, other than maybe the college route or the military routes," said McGoldrick.
For rising seniors Jada Smith and Amaya Castanon, pushing themselves to try something new is inspiring.
"When you hear about girls and their career path, you hear about nursing mainly or therapy or something like that. And I was like, I wasn't really interested in trades but looking at it now, I'm like, it honestly seems like a really good career for me and I feel like it would be nice to be a female in a man-known career field," said Smith.
"It's very overwhelming because it is a man-dominated field, and I just find it really empowering because you don't have to ask a male how to put in a light switch, you can just do it by yourself now," said Castanon.
On top of the skills training, students also learn financial literacy, saving for a 401k and how to create a successful resume.