Did you know there are currently more than 10,000 people enrolled in building trades apprenticeship programs in the state of Minnesota?
However, women and nonbinary persons are still less likely than men to join an apprenticeship. According to a 2018 report by the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan public policy institute, only 7.2% of registered individuals in apprenticeships identify as women.
Learn2Build program manager Mary DesJarlais knows that changing a statistic takes time, but it also takes a community effort.
Recently, DesJarlais watched a community of mentors, construction professionals and guardians empower young girls and nonbinary students to say yes to construction through the Learn2Build summer construction camp hosted in partnership with Dunwoody College of Technology and the Minneapolis YWCA.
“It’s critical to expose women and nonbinary people to construction earlier to make them aware of careers that align with their passions,” DesJarlais said. “This starts with how we talk to our young students about building and working with their hands and it continues on when they start school and participate in camps.”
Thirteen young girls and nonbinary students took part in the camp that was hosted over four days. Learn2Build camp is funded by the Construction Careers Foundation (constructioncareers.org), a Minneapolis-St. Paul-based nonprofit that promotes STEM skills and construction-based activities with students in grades 5-10.
“Every year we try to create one camp just devoted to empowering students who identify as non-binary or as a woman,” DesJarlais said. “We want them to be surrounded by role models who look just like them. We want them to know what it’s like to be a person who does activities usually stereotyped as ‘just for boys.’ Construction has no gender. Construction is for everyone.”
DesJarlais and Learn2Build volunteers recruited this year’s campers from the Minneapolis YWCA Eureka program and partnered with Dunwoody Construction Trainer Heather Gay and Dunwoody HVAC, Electrical, Survey and design programs to create a camp that introduces the young people to a variety of construction careers and construction-related skill sets.
“Campers built birdhouses, marshmallow launchers, did surveying exercises and toured Dunwoody College of Technology to explore the different departments that use construction skills,” DesJarlais said. “My favorite part of organizing this camp is that it’s a safe space for girls and nonbinary students to explore tools and building without the stigma of not being ‘good enough’ or ‘strong enough.’ A lot of tool-based learning is not about strength but rather how to use the tool properly and safely.”
The Learn2Build camp provided the students with real life construction materials for each project and taught them how to read blueprints, measure and cut building materials.
“From start to finish on the first day, we saw our campers were excited about the projects and took pride in their work,” DesJarlais said. “Many of the participants expressed interest in taking ‘more camps like this.’ Some are considering signing up for classes at school that offer hands-on building projects. Hearing these kinds of comments always pumps me up!”
More Learn2Build camp opportunities are planned for this fall and an events schedule can be found on ConstructionCareers.org. Learn2Build campers were sent home with additional construction materials to complete a tiling project and a grout kit.
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