On November 5th, America celebrated the inaugural National Women in Apprenticeship Day. President Obama, along with over a dozen Governors and Mayors, made proclamations praising the Building Trades apprentice programs.
Across the country, the Department of Labor and local union activists, organized events to focus on the benefits for women of becoming an apprentice.
“The success of National Women in Apprenticeship Day can be measured by the supportive proclamations from governors & mayors, by the reach of 2.2 million impressions on social media, by the celebratory events held all over the country, by the 200,000 cars every day who passed by two different Boston union’s billboards each day last week, and by the enthusiasm with which tradeswomen all over the US shared “selfies” and stories from the job,” said Elizabeth Skidmore, Business Representative for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.
“Events like National Women in Apprenticeship Day make concrete the growing support for advancing women in the trades,” Skidmore added.
In Boston, the Women’s Bureau and Office of Apprenticeship co-hosted a conversation on Women in Apprenticeship. Public sector leaders from U.S. Department of Labor, EEOC, and state, city, and county officials discussed examples of successful apprenticeship programs and some challenges women still face in entry and retention in many occupational fields.
In Lowell, MA the Women’s Bureau and the Greater Lowell Workforce Investment Board convened a roundtable discussion focused on Apprenticeships in Manufacturing.
Some of the other events included:
- In Berkeley, CA the Women’s Bureau collaborated on an open house called Celebrating Women in Apprenticeship, which showcased the federal role in promoting apprenticeship and enforcing equal employment opportunity for women and minorities within the building trades.
- In New York City, the Women’s Bureau attended an event hosted by Nontraditional Employment for Women called “Advancing Women in the Trades: Building on Success” to help increase awareness of and access to nontraditional occupations among women.
- In Denton, TX, Women’s Bureau spoke at the National Apprenticeship Week event hosted by Power Line Holdings (PLH) Group at Northwest Lineman College.
- In Philadelphia, the Women’s Bureau spoke at an open house at the Finishing Trades Institute and the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund’s Career Fair, which featured guest speakers and previous apprentices.
The main focus of the National Women in Apprenticeship Day is to encourage more women to become skilled laborers. 47% of the national workforce is made up of women, yet only make up 4% of the building trades workforce nationally.
Thousands of women are taking the first step towards pay equity, while climbing the economic ladder to the middle class, by becoming an apprentice in one of the many Building Trades unions.
Last year the Building Trades began training 430,000 new apprentices, up nearly 50,000 from the previous year. On top of that, women now make up over 9% of all new apprentices. The National Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues wants to raise that to “20 percent by 2020.”
There are a few of compelling reasons that women are choosing careers in the Building Trades.
- The Building Trades offer women an opportunity to learn a valuable skill without years in college and the burden of thousands of dollars in student loans.
- A women in the building trades has the potential to make $1.2 million dollars more in her lifetime than if she worked in a typical “woman’s” job such as childcare or food service.
- Get paid while you learn. Apprentices on average earn more than $50,000 upon program completion, and have been shown to increase their compensation by approximately $300,000 over their lifetime compared to someone not completing an apprenticeship.
- 90% of apprentice graduates enter and sustain meaningful employment.
All across the country, the unions of the Building Trades, are helping young workers find good careers in the Building Trades.
Specifically here in New Hampshire a group of unions have come together to start a new program to give women a chance to see what a career in the Building Trades would look like. The program, Building Pathways, is a six-week class where participants get hands on experience learning about the different trade unions.
Last year, Annastashia Parke felt her life was headed in the wrong direction. She could not afford to attend college but knew she needed to do something more than working in a variety of low-wage jobs. She learned of the Building Pathways program, signed up, completed the pre-apprentice course and now is a second year apprentice with the Ironworkers Local 7 in Boston.
“I am a woman apprentice who is thrilled and grateful to be where she is,” she wrote. “Apprenticeships work; they are a pathway, unknown to many, and it’s about time we speak up!”