Squeezing Fresh Juice from Electricity

Wendy Bell plugs into Electrical Construction & Maintenance Technology program.

Wendy "Dede" Bell

Wendy Bell, nicknamed “Dede,” began to wonder about a career as an electrician when she was working as a stagehand at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn.

“My job involved setting up the lights for such acts as the Moody Blues, Alan Jackson, Joan Jett, Willie Nelson, Bill Cosby and Pat Benatar,” said Bell, a native of Rochester, who now lives 30 miles to the northeast in the small town of Millville. “I almost always ended up working with the electricians. I discovered that I really liked the kind of work they do.”

A mother with two daughters, Wendy, 18, and Marisa, 14, Bell was employed at the largest event center in southern Minnesota for a decade. She eventually took on the demanding job of driving a cab in Rochester. Even though she likes her job as a taxi driver and knows Rochester like the back of her hand, she soon realized that she needed more than just an occupation. She wanted a career.

With the help of TRiO and the Summer Bridge Program, Bell enrolled in the Electrical Construction & Maintenance Technology program at Dakota County Technical College.

“Women provide valuable insights and make our classes more complete. They are an asset to the electrical trade.”

“The Summer Bridge Program takes place the summer before your first semester,” Bell said. “The program improves your reading, writing, math and study skills, which allowed me to do much better on my placement tests. TRiO really helped me transition into life as a college student.”

Bell entered the Electrical Construction & Maintenance Technology program in 2006 and will earn her 72-credit diploma in the spring of 2008. She plans on finishing up her general education requirements closer to home so that she can enter the workforce with her A.A.S. degree.

Bruce Hansberger, an instructor in the Electrical Construction & Maintenance Technology program, reported that he and his fellow teachers feel fortunate when women of Bell’s caliber decide to pursue a career as an electrician.

“Wendy is an excellent student,” Hansberger said. “She will make a superb apprentice in the electrical field.”

Hansberger added that so far four women have completed the program with one currently enrolled in her first semester. “We encourage females to enter the Electrical Construction & Maintenance Technology program at DCTC,” he said. “Women provide valuable insights and make our classes more complete. They are a definite asset to the electrical trade.”

Wendy Bell’s long-term goals include mastering low-voltage electricity, which will give her the skill set to return to her first love—working in show business. “I truly enjoyed life as a stagehand,” she said. “After I graduate and learn my trade, I’m thinking about going back to work at an arena or event center—but this time as an electrician, making a lot more money and proud to know that I turned my college degree into a career.”

  • Equipped with knowledge of the National Electrical Code, graduates of theElectrical Construction and Maintenance program are prepared for apprenticeship in the electrical field.
  • Trained to engage electrical/electronic theory in practical applications, electricians have the ability to install electrical services legally and safely.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median hourly wage at $20.97 for fully trained electricians in the U.S. Top earners approach $35 per hour.
  • ISEEK, the Minnesota Internet System for Education and Employment Knowledge, gives $31.85 as the average hourly wage for electricians in the seven-county, Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Top earners in the same area average $38.43 per hour.