Oregon Tradeswomen continues to expand our pre-apprenticeship training opportunity for women to new communities in Oregon. Our incredible team, and a host of industry partners and supporters, worked hard to bring our Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) to Lane County this summer. It’s our largest cohort of students outside of the Portland Metro area so far!
Excited doesn’t even begin to capture our feelings about offering our BOLI-certified pre-apprenticeship training program to even more women and gender minorities across the state of Oregon. Over the 8-weeks of training, these students will be hard at work preparing to take the next step into registered Apprenticeship and a career in the skilled trades!
This new venture would not be possible without the dedication and support of our many partners who helped us get here. Huge gratitude to UA Local 290, for our ongoing partnership, and for hosting our Summer TACC at their state-of-the-art training center in Springfield, Oregon. This cohort of pre-apprentices have a wonderful facility to build a strong foundation of skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their chosen career in construction.
Oregon Tradeswomen was also thrilled to work with Terry Bierwirth of Second Story Marketing Group to get the word out about our first Lane County training opportunity. Our team first met Terry many years ago as part of her Skilled to Work campaign on KEZI in Eugene. With Second Story Marketing Group as our partner, we were able to recruit the most students we’ve ever had in a statewide pre-apprenticeship offering!
We extend our most sincere thanks to:
Area III Plumbers JATC
Balanced Electric Inc.
Connected Lane County
Eugene Builders Exchange
Independent Electrical Contractors Oregon
Lane Education Service District
Lane Workforce Partnership
NAWIC Eugene Chapter #77
Oregon Employment Department
Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute
Sheet Metal Institute
Springfield Chamber of Commerce
UA Local 290 College of Mechanical Systems & Technology
WorkSource Oregon Lane
Each of these organizations helped share information about Oregon Tradeswomen’s TAC Class with their networks and community, and a sound reminder of how our collective efforts around a common goal can achieve great things, and that together, we are moving the construction industry into a bright future.
We can’t wait to see the Summer cohort of pre-apprentices develop into skilled tradesworkers who will be building across Oregon!
When Kelly Kupcak, Oregon Tradeswomen’s 2nd ever Executive Director, announced to our Board of Directors that she needed to return home to Ohio to be in closer proximity to her family and aging father, the Board rallied and worked with a consultant to determine the best next steps for the organization.
Now entering our 34th year as a nonprofit, Oregon Tradeswomen (OTW) is excited to share that a founding member, former Board of Directors Treasurer, and tradeswoman pioneer, Donna Hammond, has stepped in to serve as Interim Executive Director.
Under Kelly’s leadership, Oregon Tradeswomen made strides to expand opportunities for Oregonians. Our organization was able to level-up and secure our own workshop to run our program in-house for the first time in our history.
Oregon Tradeswomen also began expanding state-wide to provide crucial career education to women and non-binary individuals living in rural communities. Oregon Tradeswomen now serves more BIPOC students than ever before, hand-in-hand with the implementation of the Helen Getchell Women of Color Fund to provide specific support to BIPOC tradeswomen+.
Almost all people served through our pre-apprenticeship program, the Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class, report having a low-income and are looking to leave poverty behind. Because of Kelly’s leadership, we removed an additional barrier to attending our class class by providing all students with a $15/hr wage equivalency during training. In a groundbreaking move, Oregon Tradeswomen also successfully launched a direct-entry pipeline from our pre-apprenticeship training to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 and United Association Local 290 Plumbers, Steamfitters, HVAC/R, and Marine Pipefitters apprenticeship programs, supporting the high job-placement of our Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class graduates!
Over the past 6 years, Oregon Tradeswomen’s work has grown to encompass more advocacy efforts to improve the experiences of non-traditional tradesworkers on the jobsite. Oregon Tradeswomen made great efforts to increase retention of women in the trades through the implementation of a job-site culture change program called RISE Up– and is an affiliate trainer of this program. Today, more than 700 employees at 15 different organizations have already completed training and we are working with another 10 organizations to implement RISE Up on their job-sites.
This initiative strongly compliments the work done with the Safe From Hate Alliance and the Tradesworker Equity Council, engaging both industry partners and diverse tradesworkers to stand up against racism, sexism, and trans/homophobia in the industry.
Kelly’s leadership also made significant impacts in the legislative sphere as she engaged local, state, and federal policymakers to include funding for pre-apprenticeship programs and initiatives to increase racial and gender diversity and equity in the trades.
Oregon Tradeswomen’s founding Executive Director, Connie Ashbrook, reflected on the change, saying, “As the founder of Oregon Tradeswomen and longtime colleague of Kelly Kupcak, I am so proud and appreciative to see the growth and expansion of Oregon Tradeswomen that she has led over the last six years since I retired… I am excited to see what is next for Oregon Tradeswomen that will be made possible because of the work accomplished under her leadership.”
As Donna Hammond assumes leadership of OTW as it’s 3rd ever Executive Director, she shared, “It is an honor for me to serve as the Interim Executive Director. I’ll be working alongside some of the best, brightest, and most passionate individuals in the construction industry who share a commitment to pre-apprenticeships. My goal is to build upon Oregon Tradeswomen’s success while continuing to expand and support the pathways of competent applicants to meet tomorrow’s construction needs.”
Oregon Tradeswomen is fortunate to have Donna’s lived experience, long history with the organization, and commitment to this work and mission. Change is never easy, but passing the torch to Donna Hammond will surely build upon our organization’s strong foundation as we continue to serve women, non-binary, and trans individuals on their pathways to prosperity.
On February 27th, we lost a dear member of Oregon Tradeswomen’s community. Aida Aranda was a strong force, an inspiring person, and a growing leader.
As a 25-year member of LiUNA and Local 737, Aida knew firsthand how important construction careers are for individuals, families, and entire communities. She also knew that these careers were critical for women looking to build a better life. Aida was dedicated to mentoring women coming up in the trades while also working as a Dispatcher for LiUNA Local 296, Apprenticeship Coordinator for the Oregon Southern Idaho Laborers-Employers Training Trust (OSILETT), Market Representative for the Northwest Regional Organizing Coalition (NROC), and eventually as the Training Director of the OSILETT. Aida also served on Oregon Tradeswomen’s Board of Directors for many years and was heavily involved in our current laborers-focused pre-apprenticeship training in The Dalles. These are only a fraction of the many ways Aida was involved in the labor and tradeswoman movements.
Oregon Tradeswomen mourns this deep loss with her family, friends, and extended communities spanning from the Oregon and Southern Idaho Laborers Employers Training Trust to the Oregon AFL-CIO, where she was elected as an officer in December of 2022.
We encourage everyone who knew and loved Aida to embody her passion for defending worker’s rights and support women who are paving their way into the skilled trades. If you have any photos, videos, and/or memories of Aida, we encourage you to share them with her community online. To honor Aida’s legacy, you are invited to join her extended community at her celebration of life.
Celebration of Life for Aida Aranda
Saturday March 25th, 2023
11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Oregon & S. Idaho Laborers’ Training Center & Campus
17242 NE Sacramento St.
To help the hosts plan accordingly, please complete the following RSVP by March 22, 2023.
For those wishing to send flowers, please send to:
OR & S. Idaho Laborers Training Trust
17242 NE Sacramento St.
Portland, OR 97230
For those who would like to contribute a donation in honor of Aida,
Please make checks payable to the “Aida Aranda Benevolence Fund” and mail to:
OR & S. Idaho District Council of Laborers
17230 NE Sacramento St., Suite 201
Portland OR 97230
At the beginning of 2021, Oregon Tradeswomen, alongside Pride at Work and the American Federation of Teachers, represented by Democracy Forward, the National Women’s Law Center, and Albies & Stark LCC, filed a legal challenge against the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
In this legal challenge, the parties argued that a Trump-era “Religious Exemption Rule” was unlawful and harmful. The rule allowed federal contractors to discriminate against women, LGBTQ+ people, and other employees on the basis of religious belief was issued in the last days of the Trump presidency. For Oregon Tradeswomen and our allies, this sanctioned discrimination had to be challenged
With the transition of power from the Trump administrations, the Biden Administration quickly proposed a draft decree rescinding the rule later in 2021. Our coalition submitted a comment in support of the rescission, expounding on the harm that the Trump-era rule created for workers. Following the action taken by our coalition, the DOL rescinded the rule.
We applause the Biden Administration and Department of Labor for their deliberate action against this discriminatory rule. Allowing discrimination on any basis emboldens and protects bigots to discriminate freely without consequence. Thanks to the Biden Administration, a clear message was sent that the federal government does not condone discrimination.
With still relatively few women working in the skilled trades, we are always excited to hear about new media representing the experiences of tradeswomen.
We are excited to share a new publication from Canadian tradeswoman Hilary Peach, detailing her two decades as a transient welder in the Boilermakers Union! The book, Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood, is a collection of Hilary’s journal entries, notes, and observations from her time working in shipyards, pulp mills, power-stations, and other traditionally male worksites across the North American continent.
Hilary’s stories take you on a journey through the lens of being the only woman welder on a job-site. Her mastery of the written word paints a beautiful picture of the dichotomy between the challenging nature of her work and the rewarding feelings of a job well done. Hilary confronts the blatant sexism and discrimination in the industry with humor, lending levity to tough topics that are still too common in the tradeswoman experience.
The British Columbia Review describes Thick Skin as “a vital memoir and, as poet Kate Braid reveals in her preface, it’s also a ‘love story.’ Hilary Peach takes the reader into a rarely seen world and we leave with new knowledge and respect, her style sparking as brightly as a welder’s torch, seaming disparate pieces of the universe together.”
Canadian poet Kate Braid says of the memoir, “This is a wonderful book – not just funny but a rare, insider’s look at the life of a travelling welder – the good, the bad, the ugly, and always, the fascinating. A collection of hilarious stories by a master (mistress?) of repartee, it is also an homage to the trade she loved.”
The New York Labor History Association, Inc. thanks Hilary for “making women look good out there and for paving the way for more women to enter this industry.”
Women in Construction Week is an annual event started by The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) in 1998 to honor women in the construction industry and promote the opportunities for women in this industry. This year Women in Construction Week falls on March 5 – March 11, making this the 25th year of celebrating women in construction!
This year’s theme is “Many Paths, One Mission,” focusing on the different journeys women have taken toward the goal of strengthening and amplifying the success of women in the construction industry. Join NAWIC, unions, construction firms of all sizes, and organizations like Oregon Tradeswomen in participating in Women in Construction Week events and show support for tradeswomen online!
Women in Construction Week Events
Saturday, March 4:
Women in Construction Week Kick-Off
Monday, March 6:
DE&I Panel: Hot Topic Discussion with Leading Women in Construction
Tuesday, March 7:
Walsh Construction Job Site Tour
Wednesday, March 8 (International Women’s Day):
NAWIC + Dovetail Trunk Show
UA290 + PMCA Women in Construction Week Top Golf Event
Saturday, March 11:
Women in Construction Week Toast & ReCap
The largest gathering of tradeswomen in the world recently reconvened in Las Vegas for the 2022 Tradeswomen Build Nations (TWBN) conference! The 2022 event was the biggest one yet with more than 3,000 tradeswomen and allies attending.
The conference officially kicked off Saturday, October 29th with a Plenary session hosted by Vicki O’Leary, Chair of NABTU’s Women’s Committee, and Erica Stewart, National Coordinator of Women in Trades Initiatives for the Boilermakers. They invited notable speakers from the Presidents of the Las Vegas Raiders and the AFL-CIO, to United States Secretaries of Labor and Commerce, Marty Walsh and Gina Raimondo. There was also a special surprise seeing Oregon Tradeswomen graduate, and union electrician with IBEW Local 48, Kennitha Wade introduce one of the speakers. Hearing so many high-level change-makers come together in passionate support of the tradeswomen movement was exhilarating. Each speaker shared about their background and how it connects them to our cause on a personal level. It was an important reminder that we are not alone in this work—the fight for the advancement of women in construction is turning heads and attracting attention far beyond our local communities. With buy-in from our leaders, lasting change is within reach.
With vibrant energy emanating from the Paris Las Vegas Convention Center, thousands of tradeswomen banded together by trade for the fan-favorite tradeswomen banner parade. Working their way through the casino and out into the streets, heads turned as women in construction chanted and cheered in exuberant joy. We wondered how many of these bystanders have ever seen or thought about the prospect of women as trades-workers. Some folks pulled out their phones to record, some joined in cheering on the tradeswomen, all were struck by the energy that radiated from the parade. Carol Murray, Training Coordinator for Oregon Tradeswomen exclaimed, “Seeing our OTW graduates with their locals and walking in the banner parade with their respective trades was SPECTACULAR!!! Their energy was palpable and contagious!”
After demonstrating the power of the tradeswomen movement across the Las Vegas Strip, attendees self-selected into workshops that ranged from “Developing Tradeswomen Affinity Groups Within Your Local,” to “Childcare Strategies That Work for Tradeswomen,” and even “How to be a Male Ally in the Union Construction Industry.” The conference offered engaging workshops for everyone.
The day ended with Caucus meetings by trade and even included a meeting for researchers and non-profit organizaitons. Oregon Tradeswomen staff attended the “Researchers and Non-Profit Caucus” where people from organizations across North America came together to share data and best-practices to better serve women in the trades. Being an organization in such a niche movement can make it hard to find other people doing the same work, so having this space to hear what is and isn’t working for others is incredibly valuable as we continue serving tradeswomen in our community. “Meeting and collaborating with other pre-apprenticeship programs with the goal of adapting and growing in today’s ever-changing landscape was invaluable,” Carol added.
On Sunday, conference attendees heard from more prominent speakers such as Wendy Chun-Hoon, Director of the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, and Timothy J Driscoll, President of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, re-iterating their commitment tradeswomen. The morning plenary session ended with a panel on the retention and recruitment of women in the trades, an always-important discussion as more women than ever are interested in construction careers, but many leave due to harassment, childcare issues, and other issues on the jobsite. Important discussions continued in the next block of workshops where topics included “Women in Union Leadership,” “Protecting Workers’ Mental and Physical Health and Safety,” and “How to Address Bullying, Harassment, and Intimidation.”
Following the Sunday workshop session, Oregon Tradeswomen graduates and other Portland tradesworkers in the Tradesworker Equity Council (TEC) presented at the Tradeswomen Task Force’s Policy Forum. About 120 people attended, ranging from trades-workers to policy-makers, and seemed captivated by the experiences shared by the TEC. Union officials Scott Oldham from IUPAT in Portland and Charles Greer, Pittsburgh SMART Organizer, shared that this was the best workshop they attended the whole conference, and that they learned so much from the vulnerability of the TEC.
This was a first-time Tradeswomen Build Nations experience for most of the Oregon Tradeswomen staff who attended the conference. “The conference reminded me that I’m not alone, and our organization isn’t alone,” Pathways Training Coordinator Kate Hibbs shared. “Hearing that we’re only 3% of the industry nationwide feels so small, and we can feel so small in the field, but being in a group of over 3,000 at this conference, plus thinking of the other 300,000 women and gender minorities out there—we can’t be erased, we won’t be erased! We want to be in the trades and we are doing what we can so that anyone can be here if they want to.” This idea that we can’t and won’t be erased is a driving factor for the spirit that this conference embodies. It is a constant battle, but we are pushing forward into a better future together. We can’t wait to see how much progress can happen by the time we gather again in 2023.
Here at Oregon Tradeswomen, we want to take a brief pause in our busy days to acknowledge workers and worker rights as we celebrate Labor Day. The first half of this year saw an increase in the number of workplaces unionizing, with workers across all sectors demanding to have safer workplaces, benefits, fair pay, and a voice in their work. Starbucks, Amazon, and Google workers all voted to unionize across the nation this past year. A huge win for the Labor Movement, and a huge win for workers.
These efforts are resonating with the broader public – according to a recent Gallup poll, 68% percent of Americans approve of labor unions — the highest rate since 71% in 1965. Perhaps it is an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted workers to rethink their work, their lives, and their relationship with employers. Health and safety was front and center for essential workers, and that included the construction industry and tradesworkers. Here in Oregon, the Building and Construction Trades Unions, AGC, and the Oregon Health Authority worked hard to keep them safe throughout these last few years of a frightening global health issue.
Here in Oregon, our community and industry partners are also working hard to keep tradesworkers safe through a regional effort to change jobsite culture – creating safe and respectful jobsites, free from harassment, hazing, and bullying – for all workers. The Safe from Hate Alliance includes many voices across our industry, including the voices of tradesworkers themselves.
Oregon Tradeswomen would like to thank our partners, and all who have fought and continue to fight for our nation’s workforce, to ensure worker safety, dignity, and justice. We are with you in the fight today, and always, as today we honor our nation’s workers!
Kelly Kupcak, Executive Director
When Jen Brailler, an educational assistant, reached out to us for help making a career change, our team worked with her to figure out her next steps. From answering her questions, helping her identify which trade was the best fit, and providing support during her apprenticeship application process, Jen got the help and advice she needed to demystify the confusing, and sometimes overwhelming process, to start her new career. Here is Jen’s story in her own words:
“I have been an Educational Assistant for the Reynolds School District for 17 years, supporting students with special needs. I have so much passion for the work and care deeply for the students and their success. However, over time, there has been a growing lack of support, respect, and resources for the needs of teachers. Because I care so much for the students and have enjoyed my work, it’s been difficult to try for something else for a long time. This was the year that really gave me a kick-start into pursuing something new.
“Working for a school district, we help students with post-high school options often, so I’ve known about the trades for some time. I knew I didn’t want to accumulate loans at this point in my life and that led me to look in to pursuing a trade. I like to build things and get creative in my spare time, so I thought making that a career could be really cool! I learned about Oregon Tradeswomen while researching what trades careers are out there and I decided I would contact them to get a little more information… And I’m so happy I did!!
“Going into something new, I had so many questions for them! I was astonished at the immediate support and responses. Oregon Tradeswomen offers frequent Social Hours full of a lot of wonderful information as well as question and answer sessions, but they also took so much time to help me individually! Oregon Tradeswomen was able to answer pretty much all of my questions, and connected me to people and resources to answer the questions they didn’t have all the answers to. And my goodness, did I have A LOT of questions!
“Some of my many questions were:
Inquiries about application processes, which trades are most physically demanding, what Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship offers, what gear I might need for a certain trade, how can I best support my health and safety in the work, gathering information and contacts for the trade I am interested in, contacts of people who have been working in a certain trade so that I can ask them about the work, all the forms I needed to have ready for application process, and SO much more!
“I believe through emails alone, Oregon Tradeswomen’s team spent at least 10-12 hours with me – I’m sure more at this point! I eventually secured an interview with BAC Local 1 and I was feeling extremely nervous about it. Oregon Tradeswomen was able to connect me with someone who could help me practice some of the questions that are most commonly asked during the BAC apprenticeship interview! Amazing.
“Oregon Tradeswomen gave me website resources for the clothing lines they partner with to help me get started with brand new work boots and clothing. They even went above and beyond and set up a meeting time with me and Dovetail Workwear for a workwear fitting!
“ALL of the emails and in-person interactions with Oregon Tradeswomen have had a caring, supportive vibe! I haven’t even started my apprenticeship yet, and I already feel so much acceptance and love. I am positively overwhelmed and overjoyed with all that I have received so far.
“The compensation Oregon Tradeswomen gets for their work doesn’t cover the support they gave me, but they still helped me so much because they have hearts of Gold! They need a full-time staff-person who can give the kind of support that I got because it was incredibly helpful and gave me full confidence in pursuing my trade! I wasn’t sure about making this huge leap into a new career, but Oregon Tradeswomen assured me that it would change my life for the better. They motivated me in a way that I have not experienced before. I know I’ve shed some tears from the support, love, and kindness they have shown me! Women going into this type of work NEED the kind of motivation Oregon Tradeswomen offers…
“At 43 years old, I will be starting a Bricklayer Apprenticeship with BAC Local 1 in July! I owe Oregon Tradeswomen most, if not all, of the credit for my firm and confident decision in this New Beginning of my life!
Oregon Tradeswomen is a Portland-based non-profit organization, but it has been our goal to expand our pre-apprenticeship training and services across the state of Oregon. This year, we got closer to that goal! We worked with the Oregon Laborers Training and Apprenticeship, with funding through our contract with the State Apprenticeship Expansion Grant, to pilot a rural training program to recruit more women and non-binary folks into the Construction Craft Laborer trade!
Like Oregon Tradeswomen’s primary 8-week Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC), the Laborer’s Rural TACC is a 192 hour BOLI-Certified pre-apprenticeship, but was condensed into 5-weeks with a focus on the Laborer trade. Pre-apprentices spent the first few weeks building a foundation of skills through tool assessments, fitness conditioning, and construction math. Then, in Week Three, the Oregon Laborers led a Laborer’s boot camp where class participants applied their new construction skills on hands-on projects such as framing then deconstructing an 8′ x 8′ wall.
Hands-on training continued through the end of the program with students working on projects like building benches for the Warm Springs Reservation assisted living facility: the High Lookee Lodge! With several participants belonging to the Warm Springs community, there was a profound sense of pride in using their new skills to give back. In fact, one participant shared that her goal in pursuing a career in the trades was not only to provide for her children and two teenage siblings, but to bring her expertise back to Warm Springs and make much needed improvements to the infrastructure there.
By the end of the 5-week program, all participants graduated, not only as BOLI-certified pre-apprentices, but with OSHA 10, CPR, First Aid, and Forklift Certifications. A certification in Green Construction is also available to interested graduates through a two-day training with our partners at Earth Advantage. The most unique element of this training is that program graduates are offered direct entry to the Oregon Laborer’s Apprenticeship program as well as immediate employment to bridge the gap between graduation and starting Apprenticeship.
When reflecting on the past 5 weeks, Oregon Tradeswomen Training Coordinators Carol Murray and Kate Hibbs expressed their pride in the achievements of each graduate. “Seeing pre-apprentices find out that they are good at something on the first try is just so rewarding,” Kate shared. “Those little successes build on each other and create confidence for everything that follows.” Carol was particularly inspired by the level of camaraderie fostered among the students. “They’re helping one another, they’ve got each other’s backs, they’re checking in if someone is late,” she explains. “The way they connect with one another before they go out into the field is vital.”
We weren’t the only ones impressed with the Redmond pre-apprentices! This cohort had a few very special visitors join them throughout the 5 weeks. First, Oregon Governor hopeful, Tina Kotek, stopped by to learn more about the importance of pre-apprenticeship and how programs like TACC break down barriers for women to enter and be successful in the skilled construction trades. Then, we had Robert Camarillo, Wayne Chow, and John Mohlis of the Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council stop by to say hello to our training team and see the trainees in action! It is always a treat to have such influential visitors come to see the great work being done by our pre-apprentices.
Not only are our pre-apprentices developing valuable job skills for a bright future, but Redmond graduate Sage Flowers was given an incredible opportunity to tell her story at the Democratic Party of Oregon Summit. At the Summit, Sage joined a panel about growing Oregon’s economy through infrastructure investment, partnerships, and registered apprenticeships where she spoke from personal experience about how policy efforts to expand training and apprenticeship opportunities directly impact the lives of women in her community. Rural communities often lack access to career exploration and training programs that lead to family-supporting wages. Through this partnership between Oregon Tradeswomen and the Oregon Laborer’s Training and Apprenticeship, we are working to bring more career education and trainings to the communities that need them. With proper funding and policy, training opportunities for rural communities can expand further across the state.
Now that our Redmond pre-apprentices have graduated, we know they have bright futures in the trades. These 6 hard workers gave their all to commit their time and energy to complete our 192-hour program in just 5 weeks! We have so much gratitude for UA Local 290 for hosting us in their training facility, the Oregon Laborer’s Training and Apprenticeship for partnering to deliver this training, as well as COIC Worksource and East Cascade Works for providing supportive services (and a fantastic video about our training!). Additionally, we thank the Warm Springs Tribal Employment Rights Office for recruiting community members for this training. Special thanks to our friends Dave Burger, UA Local 290, and Taunia Blakely, IBEW Local 280, who were key in this project coming together.
It really does take a village to change lives and we are so proud of this community for stepping up to the plate to help make this rural training a success. We cannot wait to get back to Central Oregon and help more women get on the path to a fulfilling career in the trades!