AUBURN — Annette Giguere is studying how to make machine parts in her machine-tool class.

Ryan Dixon is studying to be a nurse.

The two are among a growing number of Central Maine Community College students taking classes that, until this year, have been mostly filled by the other sex.

Blame, or credit, the economy.

Dixon, of New Gloucester, worked as an electrician for the last seven years. “When the economy started going downhill, I figured it would be a good time to start” a new career, he said.

After high school he majored in biology and pre-med, but didn’t stick with it. He’s returning to health care. It’s challenging and satisfying, he said, responding “to whoever needs your help.”

Before she was laid off, Giguere, of Sabattus, worked at Elmet Technologies in Lewiston. After she became unemployed, she had to decide what kind of training to take for a new career. She wanted work where the pay was good, the job secure. She picked the machine tool field.

It looked interesting, and it’s good money, she said.

Her classes are filled with mostly men. What she has to learn at times can be overwhelming, she said. She misses her paycheck.

But Giguere considers getting laid off, being forced to pick a new career, “a blessing.”

At CMCC this year, there are 62 men and seven women enrolled in machine tool. Seven women is a record. “Last year we only had three,” said Roger Philippon, dean of Planning and Public Relations.

In nursing there are 11 men and 63 women students, compared to three men last year. “Some years we’ve only had one man,” Philippon said.

In automotive there are 135 men and six women, the same as last year.

In the second year of the criminal justice program, there are 48 male students and 28 female, a 37 percent increase in females.

“It’s a good time to come to college,” said the college’s Gender Equality Coordinator Kathleen Harrison. More students are looking at nontraditional careers because they want work that interests them and offers a better wage, Harrison said.

Having both men and women in careers that used to be dominated by one “is a very good trend. It’s an encouraging trend,” Philippon said. “You can get more of the best and the brightest,” and men and women offer different ways of looking at things.

The increase is not only due to the economy, but word spreading that “yes, it’s possible, and it’s not weird” to take any class, Philippon said.

Dustin Norris of Greene signed up for machine tool classes after she was laid off from her retail job. “I’m loving the classes.”

Kory Vanek of Wales is majoring in early childhood, and is the only guy in his class. It was intimidating at first, he said. “It seems like the girls knew so much more.”

He no longer feels uncomfortable, and looks forward to working with children. “Every child has a different personality.”

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Surrounded by female students, Ryan Dixon listens to a lecture on
stress and passive-aggressive behaviors in his Foundations of Nursing
Care class at Central Maine Community College. There are 26 students; six of them men. More students are taking classes that used to
be dominated by men or women.

Annette Giguere of Sabattus, right, listens to instructor Fred Donovan during his class on Introduction to Lathes in the machine tool technology program at Central Maine Community College. Out of the 12 students in class, three are females.

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