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ϱ Students Make Their Mark in the Workforce

ϱ Students Make Their Mark in the Workforce

November 27, 2023 Jon Pine

TWO STUDENTS SHARE ABOUT THEIR SUCCESS IN MALE-DOMINATED CAREER FIELDS

When it comes to the trades two female students from ϱ’s (ϱ) workforce training programs are making their mark and proving that working with your hands—and getting them dirty—isn’t just a boy’s club.

Sophia Moleiro

Sophia Moleiro is finishing her two-year A.A.S. Degree program in Automotive Service Management Technology. On her first day, as the only woman in her class, she could feel the eyes of the other students on her. “I was scared and nervous and full of anxiety,” she said. But when she ended up with the highest grade in the class, she earned the guys’ full respect.

“ϱ welcomed me with open arms. I am very proud that that happened,” Moleiro told more than 500 community leaders and well-wishers who gathered Nov. 1 for the grand opening of ϱ’s Eastman Advanced Workforce Training Complex. The purpose-built, 60,000-square-foot complex is Florida’s newest, most technologically advanced workforce training facility.

The complex features leading-edge technology and industry-specific training combined for immersive educational experiences in specialized technical career fields, including advanced manufacturing; robotics and smart automation; automotive; welding; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; and more.

“The hands-on opportunities are phenomenal—you really learn a lot,” Moleiro said. “I’m a very hands-on learner.” Working with the latest technology and equipment at the Eastman Complex gave her a leg up in the industry, she said.

After graduating, she has plans to study welding at ϱ, with the dream of opening her own shop. Today, she works as the only female mechanic at Sunrise Ford in Fort Pierce. “Professor James Cosner required us to complete four core training certificates,” she recalled. “I was able to prove to my Service Manager that I was certified in those specific areas. He was impressed with that.”

Brenda Sandoval

Brenda Sandoval, 33, was teaching preschool during the day and studying at night and weekends to earn a certificate in ϱ’s Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating Systems Technology program. Today she owns her own company—Air Pro Heating and Cooling—serving customers in Okeechobee and surrounding communities.

“When I first enrolled in the HVAC program, I had no idea how it was going to change my life,” Sandoval said. Like Moleiro, Sandoval was the only female student in the class. “(Instructor) Rudy Cheung gave me the confidence in the classroom.” In fact, by the end of the program, her classmates were coming to her for help.

Sandoval sometimes meets resistance in the field with new customers. “It does take a little more time to gain the confidence of newer customers,” she said, but Okeechobee is a tight-knit community and once word got out that she knew her stuff people began to trust her.

For more information on ϱ Career Training programs, visit the career training programs page at irsc.edu.

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