We Still Make Career Decisions Based Partly on Gender

by Maria Vittone~

Without being conscious of it, we still make career decisions based partly on gender. If we do choose to break the gender mold, it is often a difficult decision that brings men and women up against social barriers that they may not have considered: male/female communication styles are different; unconscious bias and discrimination often exits; there could be a lack of support from family, friends, and society in general; and this is often accompanied by a lack of self-esteem.

Photo by henri meilhac on Unsplash

Because of these barriers, it is important to support those students who are breaking the gender mold. In my work for Hennepin Technical College and North Hennepin Community College, we are in the process of designing wrap-around services for our nontraditional students which will include a match with a professional mentor in their field, peer support groups, and supplemental professional career guidance. Check out these peer support group resources:

We are also working on updating and developing career self-assessments for both genders with the hope that this may broaden our student’s ideas of career choice. These self-assessments will determine a student’s interest level in a nontraditional career and then point them in the right direction to gather more information.

By understanding the pros, cons, and developing the interpersonal and professional skills needed to succeed in a nontraditional career, it is our hope that our students and future generations will have a wider array of career options and satisfying careers, with a greater earning potential than generations before them.

On a personal note, this position is an interesting crossroads for me when I think about being a career counselor and the daughter of a male nurse. My father went to nursing school in the early 1960’s. I recall so often having to convince people that, “No, I didn’t make a mistake; my Dad was not a doctor, he was a nurse.” Only 2.7% of nurses were male at that time. Currently, the percentage of male nurses is still shockingly low, at 9% despite 50 years passing. Continuing the family tradition of passing along the option of having a nontraditional career, my two daughters hear me talk, albeit ‘ad nauseum’, about my mission to make sure that they too consider all of their career options.

My go-to resource for current trends and ideas for increasing women’s representation in STEM is the National Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science.  (I stop everything to read their monthly newsletter!)

This is my most recent favorite article that showcases men in nursing.

Have you considered all your career options? Take the Career Assessment for Women to find out.

Maria is Nontraditional Student Support Consultant for Hennepin Technical and Community College and North Hennepin Community College, helping to encourage men and women who are pursuing a nontradtional career for their gender.

Meet William J. Nelson

We asked William to share his story and dish advice to young people in honor of career and technical education month in Minnesota and across the country. William is the “2018 Business Leader of the Year” named by the Association for Career and Technical Education.

Who are you and what do you do?

I was very fortunate to grow up on a farm and realized at age 17 that I wanted to focus my life’s work on helping the planet feed itself. Fifty years later I am still at it.  Howard Buffet’s book 40 Chances inspired me and I highly recommend it. I have used my forty chances and created a lot more, for myself and others. I used three chances in community education in an urban school system; 13 in teaching and leadership positions in a technical college, and 24 in corporate philanthropy in which our funding focused on career development opportunities, such as the National Teach Ag campaign. I retired from 40 years of employment, to continue my work in service and consulting (William J. Nelson, LLC) activities, focusing more and more of my time and energy on creating ‘chances’ for others too, especially the next generation.

Picture of William J. Nelson
William J. Nelson Named 2018 ACTE Business Leader of the Year

In your view, what role does career and technical education play in Minnesota’s workforce readiness?

I have a blended education of the liberal arts and technical education and have been involved in both throughout my childhood and working career.  I think a blend—perhaps on a continuum for each person that best fits them—is both valuable for the person but also for society.  I think “workforce readiness” means more than just being employable, but also entrepreneurial; and for the organization (business, association, non-profit, etc.) to be a partner with the person as an employee to help them grow and change as the organization grows and changes.

What advice do you have for young people today?

Learn every which way you can, constantly, continually, creatively, with a personal mission drawing you forward. Follow two rules: 1) Get involved in projects that you cannot do alone and  2) Get involved in projects that will take longer than your own lifetime to complete.

Can you think of one technical skill set that every person should know who to do?

The ability to stand in front of a group of people on short notice and speak coherently.   (Extemporaneous speaking).  One might question whether this is a technical skill: I think I could argue a case that it is. Think about it. Try it. Don’t just rely on technical communication skills (social media) to be a substitute for using your own voice courageously.

William is an independent consultant who works with a broad range of educational and agricultural organizations as they address future needs and opportunities. He previously served more than two decades as vice president of Corporate Citizenship for CHS Inc. and president of the independent CHS Foundation. 

Benefits of Hiring Recently Released Individuals

by Mark Schultz~

When an individual has spent time incarcerated and finally gets released, they may leave with a little bit of money, the clothes on their back and a bus ticket – but they also leave with something else…a stigma that can, and often does, become their master status.  That is to say that before they are seen as a father, mother, or potential employee, they are viewed as a criminal.  This can be detrimental as one of the main things that most of these recently released individuals want is to gain employment, and sometimes this is a requirement of their supervised release.  Despite Ban the Box legislation being enacted in Minnesota, which prohibits most employers from asking applicants about their criminal history on applications, some employers still refuse to give those with a criminal background an opportunity.  Even with applications no longer inquiring about past criminal behavior, employers can easily screen applicants given that their criminal background is accessible using the Minnesota Trial Court Public Access site.  Additionally, employers can still ask about prior criminal activity at interviews and subsequently deny employment.

Imaeg close-up of cabinet making
Photo by el alce web on Unsplash

While it is true that some occupations are off limits to those with certain offenses, such as drug crimes and sexually-based offenses, it may also be true that one of the reasons some employers feel that those who have spent time behind iron bars or steel doors do not possess the skills they are looking for.  However, what those same employers may not realize is that many of these recently released individuals have worked for MINNCOR, which is the Department of Corrections prison industries, which includes laundry services, printing, furniture for detention facilities, businesses, residences and libraries, cabinetry, upholstery and custodial products, just to name a few.  Additionally, the work settings, equipment used and work that is completed on a daily basis are the same, or very similar, to that which is completed in the same jobs outside of prison.  Thus, these recently released individuals that have worked while incarcerated are already trained, which would cut down, or even eliminate, the cost of training someone new.  To add to the benefits if hiring someone who has been released from a correctional facility and worked while serving their time, these individuals can develop transferable skills that are so highly coveted by employers, such as showing up to work on time, working with teams and independently, working with little supervision and producing quality products and providing valuable services.  Table one outlines the type of work that is done at Minnesota correctional facilities.

Table 1. Industries and Subcontracting in MINNCOR by Facility

Minnesota Correctional Facility MINNCOR Occupations Subcontracting Services
Faribault Wood Furniture, Laundry, Plastics, Custodial Products and Subcontract Labor Assembly

Cabinet Making

Metal Fabrication


Painting (Finishing)



Tube Bending


Wood Fabrication

Moose Lake Textiles, Printing, Subcontract Labor
Rush City License Plates, Stickers, Subcontract Labor
Shakopee Textiles, Safety Products, and Subcontract Labor
Stillwater Metal, Mattresses, Upholstery, Warehousing, Logistics, Distribution, and Subcontract Labor

Source: Minnesota Department of Corrections MINNCOR Industries Web Page (www.minncor.com)