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McCarthy Building Co.'s Construction 101 introduces girls to industry

Kim Camacho-Pacheco, left, an Estancia High  student, learns to build a switch receptacle, guided by Erica Torres, right.
Kim Camacho-Pacheco, 16, left, an Estancia High School student, learns to build a switch receptacle, guided by Erica Torres, right, with AJ Kirkwood & Associates, at the electrical station during McCarthy Building Companies’ Construction 101 day on Saturday in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Breaking barriers can be intimidating, but McCarthy Building Companies has been attempting to aid young women who think that a career in the construction industry might just be what they are looking for.

For the past few years, the McCarthy Partnership for Women has been offering a Construction 101 day, geared toward introducing high school girls to the opportunities available to them.

High school students and their mentors convened at the McCarthy office in Newport Beach on Saturday, marking the third annual Construction 101 event. It had been canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The participants made their way around to four stations, each helmed by a different company in the construction industry. For its part, McCarthy had the girls pour concrete into a mold that, when dried, created an image of a construction worker that they could take home.

Each participant made and took home a concrete mold they created at the concrete finishing station.
Each participant made and took home a concrete mold they created at the concrete finishing station during McCarthy’s Construction 101 day on Saturday in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Hilti provided the chance for the students to work with power tools, and in particular, an automatic screwdriver that was used to put screws through a drywall. The structure had been designed to look like Rosie the Riveter, a longtime symbol of women in the workforce.

There were also stations that taught the students how to work with electrical switchboards, as well as teach safety practices for operating a crane.

Manasi Pitkar, preconstruction director and Construction 101 committee leader for McCarthy, said that the goal of the program is to get women thinking about the possibility of a career in the field. It already has some success stories.

Joy Gonzalez, 20, of Pine Mountain Club, who now works for the electrical contractor AJ Kirkwood and Associates, Inc., attended the initial Construction 101 event.

Gonzalez said her father worked in the construction industry, and it had always been her ambition to work in a male-dominated field. She still has dreams of becoming a pilot.

Michelle Ordonez, second from right, and Alexa Hupalo, 18, far right, grab soil as they each pot a succulent plant.
Michelle Ordonez, second from right, with McCarthy Building Co., and Alexa Hupalo, 18, far right, a Bishop Alemany High School student, grab soil as they each pot a succulent plant at the landscape and irrigation station.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“You look at a movie and you only pay attention to the actors,” Gonzalez said. “I like knowing that I’m like the directors in the back of the building. The people that designed it, that’s incredible, but now I get to bring power to it.”

For Estancia High School junior Kim Camacho-Pacheco, it was a class offering that served as the spark that ignited her passion for construction. She said that she had been considering ceramics before winding up in the class.

Camacho-Pacheco has now attended all three of McCarthy’s Construction 101 days.

“I didn’t think that construction would have been something for me, but as I kept on staying in that class, I learned many things, and what keeps me going is the women in construction,” Camacho-Pacheco said. “Seeing women work in construction keeps me more inspired.”

Rodney Hupalo, American Landscape business development manager, guides a group in potting succulent plants.
Rodney Hupalo, American Landscape business development manager, guides a group in potting succulent plants at the landscape and irrigation station.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Camacho-Pacheco added that if she sticks with construction classes at Estancia through her senior year, she will become the first female student to receive a medal at graduation for construction.

“It’s super cool because I want to be able to inspire young women and freshmen to join construction and tell them, ‘This is for girls, too. This is not only for guys,’” Camacho-Pacheco said. “That’s why I want to see more girls join.”

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