Molly Speaks

Women choosing workforce careers

There have historically been more men than women in the skilled workforce trades. “It is a common misconception that work in the trades requires physical strength to be successful. Today’s work has more to do with skills, mindset and the ability to be a team player,” explains Dr. Nancy Sweet, dean, Workforce Institute at LLCC. 

At the Workforce Institute, all students learn valuable skills and knowledge that will help drive respect in the industry. The practical, hands-on training helps students enter the workforce with confidence. 

In addition to obtaining key skills, students gain experience through work-based learning, internships and mock-interviews. “We strive to have our students networking with future employers from day one, so they can see where the opportunities are and see into their future,” says Dr. Sweet. 

Four women share their stories of finding careers they enjoy — stories of choosing career paths in workforce trades.

Aviation Maintenance: Kendall Durbin

Female student working on an aircraft.
Kendall Durbin

“I have always had a passion for working with my hands and fixing things. I knew I wanted to work in aviation maintenance, and LLCC was the perfect option. I could achieve my goals and finish the program in just 18 months while staying close to home,” says Kendall Durbin, a recent graduate of LLCC’s aviation maintenance program.

Durbin’s journey started in high school when she began exploring auto mechanics, learned how to weld and even restored a 1997 Camaro. In search of a challenge, she decided to take her talents and explore the world of aviation maintenance. After some research, Durbin booked a tour at LLCC. “Once I saw the hangar full of airplanes, I knew this was the right career path for me,” she says.

LLCC’s aviation maintenance program equips students with real-world, hands-on job training to prepare them to enter the workforce. Durbin is currently employed by Standard Aero in Springfield, where she specializes in completing maintenance inspections on corporate aircraft. While finishing the program, Durbin was able to work as a mechanic trainee with Standard Aero, which led to a full-time career opportunity with the company.

“Airplanes still amaze me every time I see one flying above,” says Durbin. “If my younger self could see what I was doing now, she’d be so impressed.”

Diesel Technologies: Erin Barrick

A female student works on a diesel truck.
Erin Barrick

As an upcoming, fourth generation owner of her family’s trucking company, Erin Barrick pursued LLCC’s diesel technologies program to gain vital skills and knowledge that will help contribute to the success of the family business for the years to come.

“I was raised in a truck shop and grew up working alongside my dad, so this was a perfect next step for me,” says Barrick. In 2022, she completed the truck driver training program at LLCC and then returned to further her skills in the diesel technologies program. “I was excited, and still am, to learn from the best in the industry here at LLCC.”

When she’s not at school, she’s usually at the shop working on whatever needs repaired and putting her new skills to use. Barrick helps to manage the day-to-day operations of the family trucking business. In her free time, she has been working to rebuild a 1986 Peterbilt truck that, once restored, she plans to use as her work truck.

Construction Trades: Sophie Caro

A female student wearing an orange t-shirt.
Sophie Caro

“I explored LLCC’s construction occupations program, and once I saw the courses offered, I knew that LLCC’s Workforce Institute was the right place for me,” says Sophie Caro, LLCC student. In high school, Caro applied for an introduction to engineering course, which quickly developed into a passion for computer-aided drafting (CAD) and how it relates to the construction industry today.

Caro has already learned many important skillsets as a first-year student within the construction occupations program — from learning how to wire switches from a breaker box to a lighting fixture, to reading blueprints, to framing a wall in a commercial building. “Not only will the skills I have gained help me with my future career, but also when I’m completing renovations on my own home in the future,” she explains.

Once she completes the program, Caro plans to become a CAD technician for a construction company. “The technical skills I will develop in the construction occupations program will help me succeed as I pursue my future career in the industry.”

Automotive Technology: Molly Speaks

Molly Speaks
Molly Speaks

“My passion for cars began at 11 years old. As time passed, I realized that an automotive career was for me when all I wanted to do with my free time was learn about cars and the new technology emerging every day within the auto industry,” says Molly Speaks, LLCC automotive technology student.

Speaks began classes at the Workforce Institute in 2023 to jumpstart a career in automotive technology. She encourages other women to explore the opportunities in this field. After graduation, Speaks has her sights set on working in diagnostics at the corporate level for an automotive company where she can assist in diagnosing technology issues and train technicians throughout the country.

“All the instructors are engaging and knowledgeable. They prepare us for our future careers every day,” she says. “Employers were knocking at the door from the first class looking to hire students at all skill levels.”