National Women in Construction Week (WIC) takes place from March 6-12, 2022, and highlights the contributions of, and the desire to strengthen the presence of, women in America’s construction industry. The week is dedicated to challenging career stereotypes and provides an occasion to raise awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry.
Construction Careers Foundation Programming Inspires Young Women to Consider the Building Trades
“Women are never alone in the construction world,” said Mary Stuart, associate director for the Construction Careers Foundation. “Women can be found working in all 30 of the construction careers found on our website, ConstructionCareers.org, and they hold a variety of roles from apprentice to supervisor.”
According to the State of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Minnesota ranks above the national average for women employed in the construction industry. The Construction Careers Foundation is continuing to address the need to educate women — especially young women in middle and high school — on careers in construction through programs such as Learn2Build and the Minnesota Trades Academy. These in-school programs can help young women explore and consider construction careers with great benefits and high pay.
For example, the Learn2Build program allows students in grades 4-9 around the Twin Cities to be exposed to the building trades industry. Combining fun and games with Science, Technology, and Engineering and Math (STEM) students are introduced to career paths such as pipefitting, civil engineering, plumbing, painting and more.
The program allows young girls to envision themselves as talented builders and crafters from a young age, empowering them to open their thinking as to what’s possible for them to achieve as they get older.
“I’ve loved everything that we have done at Learn2Build,” said Ava Peterson, a 4th grade student at Chelsea Heights Elementary School in St. Paul. “We built our very own marshmallow launcher using PVC pipes. It was so cool. I really, really hope that my middle school offers construction classes.”
Aylli Alford, a 7th grade student at Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul had a similar experience with the program.
“Now I know there are jobs like this out there, I might consider taking classes in school that are construction based,” Aylli said. “I could even be able to help out at home with fixing stuff now!”
The Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA) is a paid summer construction internship experience for selected Twin Cities area high school youth. The goal is to help high school-age students prepare for adulthood through life-long learning, skill development, and access to good jobs with good benefits in the construction industry.
For high school girls who never imagined a career in construction as an option for themselves, the Minnesota Trades Academy program provides hands-on experience and mentorship that equips young women with a skill set that will give them confidence on the job site if they choose to pursue a career in the building trades.
“I’ve found that a construction internship can really benefit you with experience. For teenagers like me, there’s not a lot of paid internships,” said Gabriella Soika, a 12th grade student at High School For Recording Arts in St. Paul. “A career in construction trades is my plan A for right now for when I get out of school.”
Construction Careers Foundation Amplifies the Voices of Women in Minnesota’s Construction Industry
There are many women in Minnesota’s construction industry who are blazing a path for the next generation of women apprentices. The website ConstructionCareers.org showcases the stories of women construction professionals so that young women and girls who aspire to join the profession have a strong example to follow and can see that there is a place for them in the industry.
“Through my apprenticeship as a union laborer, I’m able to start paying off my student debt, save for a house, and travel,” said Lenon. “It’s a rewarding feeling at the end of the day to complete the same task a man did.”
“My mom, Rosey Grab, works for Local 49 as an operating engineer,” Loew said. “She transitioned into the construction field after I graduated high school. I remember her working a lot of jobs and doing everything she could to support us. When she joined a union, she had education opportunities, training, retirement and benefits.”
Loew began her career as an oiler because wants to provide those same benefits to her family.
“My advice to young women: If college isn’t your passion or you know it’s too expensive – go into the trades. A college degree does not determine your worth or your life – through a construction union you are employable, you will earn a high wage and benefits in a career,” said Loew.
Learn About More Opportunities for Women in the Construction Trades
For more stories about women in Minnesota’s construction trades, check out Success Stories on ConstructionCareers.org. Through these stories, real construction workers share their experience in Minnesota’s construction trades – how they got into the construction trades, why construction is right for them, and what they get out of their work. ConstructionCareers.org also provides information about how to apply for an apprenticeship, what type of work is expected for each construction profession, and reasons why high school students should explore the trades while also exploring going to college or serving in the military.