Fort Kent resident Anne Ward came to Northern Maine Community College with a plan. “I knew exactly what I wanted.” She purchased a “fixer upper” that needs renovating, in addition to owning a 95-year-old family camp that also needs a large amount of work. Although Anne has experience with refinishing furniture and wood-working, when she tried to tackle the renovations herself, she realized that she needed more training to ensure that the work was done properly. That is when she decided to pursue the Building Construction Technology (BCT) program at NMCC. “I decided to return to college on the GI bill to use my veteran’s benefits to learn practical applications for renovating my home and camp.”
Anne retired as a Master Sergeant from the military after serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard, working as a photo journalist, historian, and intelligence imagery analyst. She had some reservations about returning to school, questioning if she would “fit in”. “Being older, I was a little anxious about going back to school.” However, Anne reports that age has never been an issue. “Students are friendly and accepting. I have felt like part of the group. I have been totally comfortable at NMCC; age is irrelevant here.”
In addition to her age, Anne had other concerns about attending college, including past difficulties with learning. “I have some learning disabilities that I have to work twice as hard to overcome by studying harder and asking for help.” For the first time in her life, Anne has made the Dean’s List, not once, but all four semesters she has completed at NMCC. “My goal was to get good grades.” Having no prior carpentry experience, Anne is proud of what she has accomplished as well as what she has overcome. “You can still accomplish your goals if you have learning challenges. They are challenges you can overcome with help.”
Anne reports having a positive experience in her program. “It has been very good; hard and challenging, but good. I have learned so much, from carpentry to computer-aided drafting, to building technology to surveying. It has really opened my eyes to the inner workings of construction.” She enjoys several aspects of the BCT program, including working with new, energy efficient materials and learning new processes. She also likes the hands-on component of the program and the opportunity to build various objects and structures. “It’s fun. You’re proud that you can produce an end product.” She believes that applying what you have learned from the textbook gives you a better understanding of the information being taught.
Although Anne doesn’t plan on seeking a career in construction when she graduates next May, she will be putting the skills she has learned to good use on renovations at her home and camp. She states that the knowledge she has acquired will also help her with estimating material and labor costs. “If I have to hire carpenters or contractors, I will also be able to assess the quality of their work.”
Anne recognizes the challenges that women in a trade profession may face. She expressed concern about the societal perception that women are inexperienced when it comes to completing mechanical or construction repairs themselves. “Having this knowledge gives me a better advantage.” Anne would also like to see more females in the trades. “In my program, we started out with three females and ended with two.” In addition, Anne recommends that instructors treat all students fairly, regardless of their gender or age. “A challenge with some instructors was to not be treated differently because I was a woman. Some would go out of their way to make me feel comfortable. Treat me the same as everyone else and offer help when needed.”
Anne offers advice for females considering a career in BCT. “Go into it with your eyes open and take it seriously. Do the work, carry your weight, work hard, and never play the “female card” if you want to be treated equally. In other words, don’t ask people to do the physical work for you if you can do it yourself. Also, keep in mind that construction happens in good weather and bad.”
Being a Dean’s List student, Anne knows what it takes to be successful at NMCC. “Study hard, work hard, ask questions, and always strive for excellence in all that you do, no matter what the job is. Don’t give up. Hang in there to achieve your goals.”