A program for women seeking a career in a non-traditional occupation

The Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) Training Scholarship Program provides a unique opportunity for women aged 18 and over who are interested in non-traditional occupations, that is, careers in which women represent 25% or less of the workforce.

Non-traditional occupations are underutilized career choices for women that can provide them with many opportunities to grow and achieve independence. It is important for all of us WANTO staff to see women gaining confidence in themselves and in their career choices. Women who have participated in the WANTO program take comfort in knowing that they can now pay the bills and can count on a secure retirement. This is a change from other jobs that many of these women have held in the past.

Our WANTO program, administered by the Workforce Development Board, Herkimer, Madison and Oneida Counties, Inc. (WDB/HMO), aims to help women find employment in non-traditional occupations, primarily in information technology ( IT), advanced manufacturing, trades, agriculture, and transportation sectors.

The program is 100% funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered by the Department’s Bureau of Women and the Employment and Training Administration with a $716,676 grant. Our grant serves 17 counties: Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga, Otsego, Schoharie, St. Lawrence, Tioga and Tompkins.

WANTO aims to improve the skills of the female workforce in the fields we serve by providing pre-apprenticeship programs, on-the-job training and soft skills development courses. We work with job seekers and local employers to find eligible training opportunities to help women get hired, upskill in their current roles, or meet the requirements to start an apprenticeship program.

The duration of the training varies from a few hours to a few months, depending on the needs of the employer or job seeker. Our soft skills training includes topics such as resume writing, employer expectations, interview techniques and how to deal with gender bias in the workforce. Participants also have the option of joining a registered learning program.

We aim to create a more inclusive and equitable workforce by helping women pave the way for themselves and for future generations, as they become valued and essential employees in fields where women have traditionally been under-represented. When women get the education, training and experience they need to do the job, it builds their confidence and stops that “voice in their head” that can tell them it’s not something what they can do. We want to show women that they have as much ability to excel in these careers as their male counterparts.

The WANTO Grants Program is hosting a women-focused virtual job fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, November 3. The job fair is free and job seekers and employers from across the WANTO 17 county region are welcome to register. Employers can register at https://pvapi.premiervirtual.com/s/kd79GW. Job seekers register on https://pvapi.premiervirtual.com/s/J81yQ8.

Interested businesses and eligible women who want to learn more about WANTO can contact me at 315-207-6951, ext. 110, sheiland@working-solutions.org, or on Facebook @WANTOhmo.

Stephanie Heiland, Project Director of WANTO, has worked for the HMO Workforce Development Board for over seven years, working primarily on youth grants. She is also involved in the local community, including serving as Chair of the City of Utica Access and Inclusion Committee and Advisor for the Utica Youth Common Council.

Michael A. Bynum