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Tulsa Public Schools partners with AAON Manufacturing to introduce students to STEM

Posted at 8:18 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 23:10:46-04

TULSA, Okla. — Four Webster High School students are at AAON Heating and Cooling this summer, learning everything from engineering and shipping to sales and HVAC skills.

"There is a skills gap. So this is a pro-active opportunity for us to be able to host students to get more youth into STEM fields and more trades and especially bridge the gender gap as well," community relations administrator Stephanie Cameron said.

Right now only 24 percent of manufacturing employees are women. AAON is looking to change that. Of their TPS interns, three are female.

"It's intimidating as a girl going into that field. But being here has kind of acclimated me more to the thought of that and made me more open to trying new things," intern Caitlyn Brooner said.

Students tell 2 Works for You the program prepares them for all parts of professional life, from email etiquette to skills within the STEM field.

"I used to be so late to everything. I was a last minute person. But here I'm super early because it's super important here. Taking notes is super important. AAON is a big company with so many important people you want to be prepared," intern Litzy Barrera said.

Currently the average age of a high-skilled worker is 56, and trade fields are preparing for a shortage in the years ahead. But students in the program said they're now considering manufacturing.

"A lot of kids feel pushed into doing college and then they get all that debt, but when you get experiences like this you get more of a broad image. You see 'I could go to trade school, I could work with my hands, I could be an HVAC technician'," Brooner said.

In addition to skills, the interns are gaining confidence.

"We can do whatever a guy can do, you've just got to set your mind to what you can do, whatever you can do. Just set your mind and your goals and you can do it," Barrera said.

AAON hopes to grow the amount of interns from Webster next year.

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