The 2022 Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference

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.

A Labor Day Reflection

 

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
Oregon Tradeswomen

In Her Own Words: Jen Brallier’s Pathway to Apprenticeship

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:

From Left to Right: Sara DeLuca, Dovetail Workwear Founder; Jen Brailler, Apprentice Bricklayer; Rachelle Waldie, Dovetail Workwear

“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!

With love,

Jen Brallier”

Oregon Tradeswomen’s First Laborer-Focused Rural Pre-Apprenticeship Class!

 

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!

 

Mothers Day 2022: Pregnancy in the Trades

Liz Nichols shares her tradesworker pregnancy story with Oregon Tradeswomen. Check out Liz’s full story on Youtube!

 


Did you know that women can, and do, work in the trades while pregnant? When we caught up with Liz Nichols after her appearance on CBS’s Tough as Nails skilled-trades competition, the Oregon Tradeswomen graduate and new Business Agent with Cement Masons Local 555 generously shared her experience about being pregnant on the jobsite!

Liz welcomed her second child into the world last September, but when Liz was pregnant with her first child as an apprentice, the lack of resources to guide her through the journey was intimidating. The first doctor she met gave her the unsettling news that she shouldn’t plan on working after the first half of her pregnancy. When Liz connected with a nurse midwife for a second opinion, she was assured she could continue working longer into her pregnancy. Having been acclimated to the physical labor of being a cement mason, Liz learned it was safe to stay at her current activity level, but to be sure to listen to her body. So, Liz did just that and showed up to do cement-work on the jobsite every day up until three weeks before her due date!

Months after she was back at work, Liz was on a job with another tradeswoman who was going through her first pregnancy. Having just forged her own path as a pregnant tradesworker, Liz was able to share the valuable tips and tricks she learned from being pregnant with her first-born. Being able to share her experiences was really rewarding, and being the guide she didn’t have during her first pregnancy was a significant for Liz. She told us she is excited for the day these these narratives become normalized.

This Mothers Day, we are delighted to be able to share this story because of how little representation there is for pregnant tradesworkers. Being a woman in construction is already a unique experience, so there are even fewer stories out there about pregnancy in the trades. Even so, something special we see constantly from tradeswomen is an enthusiasm to support and mentor fellow tradeswomen.

Fortunately, more unions and employers are stepping up to offer parental benefits to their workers. As  more women than ever are starting careers in the trades, we anticipate increased visibility and acceptance for tradeswomen who choose to work while expecting a new addition to the family.

As for Liz? She continues to be a support system for many tradeswomen who reach out to her for advice on social media, doing her part to be the change for tradeswomen across the country! And somehow, Liz also manages to find time to explore cement work in a creative way on a small scale. Through her side-hustle, Gray Day Goods, she is a regular donor to Oregon Tradeswomen’s Build With Us! Auction. You can check out Liz’s Cement artwork on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GrayDayGoods

Future Ready Oregon: A Win for Workforce Equity

In a tremendous win for workforce training equity, Governor Kate Brown signed the Future Ready Oregon bill into law. Future Ready Oregon is a blueprint for change and an opportunity to build an economy in Oregon that supports all workers in achieving their dreams and building a more prosperous future.

Funding from this bill will create new workforce development programs and expand existing programs in healthcare, technology, manufacturing, and other high-demand sectors while reducing barriers to employment. This investment package will specifically support community college Career Pathways programs, local Workforce Boards, and apprenticeship programs as they expand their capacity to provide free career education and support services to more Oregonians. Funding will also strengthen pre-apprenticeship like Oregon Tradeswomen’s Pathways to Success program that demonstrates strong outcomes for women in construction. Oregon Tradeswomen program graduates start their careers making an average wage of $22.81 per hour.

In addition to supporting and expanding current workforce development programs, Future Ready Oregon encourages innovation by providing Workforce Ready Grants to fund education and training programs in industries lacking accessible career pathways. With these programs, there is a renewed commitment to continuous improvement and accountability by tracking data to measure success outcomes for underserved populations.

Oregon’s Racial Justice Council and the Governor’s Workforce Workgroup helped guide this policy through a lens focused on equity to ensure minority groups like women and people of color are not left out of economic recovery. Oregon Tradeswomen’s Executive Director, Kelly Kupcak, served on the Governor’s Workforce Workgroup and contributed to the proposal which includes the goal of serving at least 50% women through these new and existing programs.

Future Ready Oregon makes much-needed new investments in the programs that help workers overcome barriers to pursuing careers providing economic security through good wages, health insurance, and retirement benefits. These investments will provide resources to offset the costs of support services such as childcare, transportation, and housing stabilization. When quality training is coupled with direct support, workers are successful in securing employment, businesses can meet their labor demands with a qualified workforce, and our communities have a shared prosperity model that works for everyone.

Tradeswomen Advocate Leslie Cotton Pushes for Equity

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh with Oregon Tradeswomen graduate Leslie Cotton

The first step to affecting change is by raising awareness: nothing can change if people don’t know about the issues! The tradeswomen movement has been around for decades, but with historically low numbers of women in the trades, it has been an uphill battle to gain visibility of this mission with our leaders, but times are changing.

The tradeswomen movement is more than just changing the idea that women can work in construction. It’s about ensuring jobsites are welcoming to women, creating debt-free pathways to employment, and reducing barriers to accessing these careers such as affordable childcare or reliable transportation. While Oregon Tradeswomen has been helping women find success in the trades since 1989, we need the awareness and support of our leaders to set up better systems to continue training and retaining diverse, skilled workers in the face of a huge labor shortage.

The Biden Administration passed the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill giving long-overdue funding to repair, rebuild, and improve upon the United States’ aging infrastructure. In addition to the roads and bridges associated with infrastructure, these funds will invest in the workers needed to achieve these goals. This means expanding apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training, addressing workplace harassment and discrimination, and ensuring women and people of color are included in this monumental overhaul of our nation’s infrastructure.

From the inception of the bill, our leaders have shown their commitment to listening to the voices of tradesworkers to make this plan equitable and effective. As part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Transportation, a virtual Town Hall was held on March 7th, 2022 to hear from a panel of workers around equitable job creation, job quality, labor standards, and workforce development. One of these panelists was Leslie Cotton, an Oregon Tradeswomen graduate and Union plumber with UA Local 290. Leslie has been a vocal advocate for women and people of color in the trades and had the opportunity to speak directly with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on the importance of access to job-training for rural Americans, and safe, healthy workplaces.

Leslie shared her story as the daughter of a single father in rural Washington who struggled, like many others in their small community, to find work that could support his family. Seeing her father work day-and-night to provide for Leslie and her disabled brother drives Leslie’s activism because she knows her family is not alone in this experience. When her father got sick, Leslie was faced with the responsibility to provide for her family and, with the job-training she received at Oregon Tradeswomen, she found the ability to do so in the trades.

Even though Leslie worked hard to build her career, as a woman and a person of color, she faced her share of obstacles. Men on the job would belittle her because they just saw her as a “diversity hire,” and not a fellow trades-worker. She even came to work one day to find a noose on her jobsite, a racist symbol that is now illegal to display in the State of Oregon. These experiences are not uncommon and by speaking up, Leslie is letting our leaders know that more must be done to ensure workplaces free of harassment, hazing, and discrimination.

With the input of trades-workers like Leslie, our movement has more visibility than ever. As a result, we are seeing a new commitment from policy-makers to invest in systems centered in equity. We look forward to following the implementation of the Infrastructure Bill and the impact on our industry. Everyone deserves to work meaningful, family-supporting jobs and we believe we are at the precipice of real change for workers everywhere.

Honoring Black History Every Day

As we celebrate and honor Black History month, I am reminded of the words of my former colleague from my time working at Chicago Women in Trades, a sister organization of Oregon Tradeswomen, who so powerfully speaks to the notion that Black History is only to be celebrated during one month of the year. She reminds me that Black History is made every day. And every day, being Black in America is both a celebration and a burden because racism and bigotry continue to exist, and our society continues to define humanity in the words of Audre Lorde as “white and male, for starters.” While Oregon Tradeswomen centers our work in equity, there is much more we are called to do.

As a white person in a nonprofit leadership role, I am trying to learn and unlearn every day.
Sometimes this work seems so heavy, so incredibly impossible, that it is hard to know what we can possibly do to change things. But, when these moments come, I am reminded that change does indeed happen, and we have to continue to hope and believe that together, we can make a difference. In this work with each of you, which I am incredibly grateful to be part of, I believe we will.

Yet, it is not enough to simply hope for change. It is not nearly enough to only have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan. It is not nearly enough to have an annual training for staff and board. We need to do more to ‘lean in’ to hard conversations and to question the status quo. While these efforts are part of the work, if we are going to affect real change and make equity more than just a buzzword, we must actively work to change systems of oppression and dismantle centuries of white supremacy. Racism is so deeply engrained in our society that often, well-intentioned white people (including myself) are missing our own implicit biases and failing to move from allyship to becoming accomplices in the fight for justice.

Moving from ally to accomplice means that we as individuals, as well as nonprofits, must not only embrace intersectionality, and examine how race, ethnicity, class, and gender have shaped the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in our country – but, we must make an intentional shift to action. Action to move from “not racist” to actively antiracist.

Author and historian, Ibram X. Kendi, defines the transformative concept of antiracism, which he says will “help us more clearly recognize, take responsibility for, and reject prejudices in our public policies, workplaces, and personal beliefs.” Kendi says we can learn how to actively use this awareness to uproot injustice and inequality in the world – and replace it with love while taking action.

Action in our program work, our public policy platform, and our partnerships with community and industry. Action in dedicating fundraising for Oregon Tradeswomen’s Helen Getchell Women of Color Fund, established to help address barriers and increase retention for Black, Indigenous, and other women of color in the trades. Taking action to change the culture of the construction industry and our jobsites in partnership with industry and community through the regional Safe from Hate Alliance. Action in working to uphold the Safe from Hate Jobsite Culture Pledge through partnering with Professional Business Development Group to launch RISE Up Oregon, a culture change program designed specifically for the construction trades. It’s also about making changes and taking action in our internal agency, and in our policies and practices as a nonprofit so that we are not simply talking about equity but working to live it as a value each and every day as we become actively antiracist.

In her 2000 work, the national bestseller “All About Love,” Black feminist, scholar, and activist bell hooks speaks to community and social justice values as “living by a Love Ethic,” in which she says that the antidote to domination is a love ethic. She writes, “Domination cannot exist in any situation where love ethic prevails… All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic.” hooks reminds us that living such values and realizing a “Love Ethic” requires courage and commitment, further noting that one of the very challenges to a love ethic is “a refusal to stand up for what you believe in.”

This month, and every month, Oregon Tradeswomen is celebrating Black History, and working to stand up for what we believe in. We are working to take action. We are working to live by a love ethic, and in the words of Ibram X. Kendi, we will work to uproot injustice and inequality in the world — and replace it with love while taking action.

I’m in. I hope you are too.

In solidarity & gratitude & love,

Kelly Kupcak
Executive Director
kelly@oregontradeswomen.org

Building Code Boards: CALLING ALL WOMEN

Jennifer Turcios Image Courtesy of the City of Santa Clarita

Jennifer Turcios, the city of Santa Clarita first woman inspector. Coutesy of the city of Santa Clarita.

An average person spends approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, yet many of the buildings in which we currently live and work are some of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses, waste energy, and harm our health.

In our time of climate crisis, our homes and buildings become our refuge. State level codes set the standards to make sure our buildings are safe and sustainable places to live, work, and raise our children. By serving on one of these very important boards you can help change an agency and make your voice heard.

Women, and especially women of color, are significantly underrepresented in Oregon’s decision-making processes around building codes. Building energy codes are the primary mechanism in place to regulate energy performance in new construction or major building renovations and they need to hear your voice.

Building Codes?

 Building codes are set at the state level in Oregon. They regulate important aspects of fire, life, and safety in new homes and buildings. As a subset of overall building codes, energy codes establish minimum levels of energy performance in these homes and buildings.

Building codes in Oregon are administered by the state Building Codes Division (BCD), alongside legislatively mandated advisory boards. These advisory boards play a vital role in determining the minimum energy efficiency of Oregon’s new homes and buildings. Board members are citizen volunteers representing different construction-related industries.

The boards include the Residential and Manufactured Structures Board (RMSB) focused on low-rise residential dwellings and the Building Codes Structures Board (BCSB) which focuses on commercial buildings. Members are appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the Senate. The RMSB consists of 11 members with four-year terms. The BCSB consists of 9 members with four-year terms.

Board Service

 Serving on the RMSB and BCSB Advisory Boards is an important role which helps set the direction for how homes and buildings are built in Oregon. In addition to having a voice on key codes decisions, advisory board members interact with construction industry professionals on a range of topics and hear expert testimony on all codes proposals coming before the Advisory Boards. Advisory Board members also interact with State of Oregon Building Codes Division staff.

Historically, the BCD has been reluctant to set codes and standards that will help move Oregon towards creating resilient and climate friendly homes and buildings. With your involvement, that could change.

The Advisory Boards include legislatively mandated representatives from various construction industry specialties:

  • “A Representative of residential building trade subcontractor” (RMSB)
  • “A Contractor specializing in residential structures” (RMSB)
  • “A Contractor specializing in remodeling residential structures” (RMSB)
  • “A Public Member” (RMSB)
  • “A Representative of the building trade” (BCSB)

The state does not provide any specific experience requirements to serve on Building Codes Boards, but applicants should be able to show they have related work experience for the seat they are applying.

Information and Resources

Residential and Manufactured Structures Board (RMSB)

Building Codes Structures Board

General “Become A Board Member” Information 

For more information

Please feel free to reach out with specific questions:

Amy Cortese:  amy@newbuildings.org
Anthony Roy:  aroy@earthadvantage.org

To apply, please visit:

https://www.oregon.gov/gov/admin/SiteAssets/Pages/How_To_Apply/Interest%20Form.pdf

Oregon Tradeswomen’s Summer Night and Weekend Training

Oregon Tradeswomen recognizes the need to provide options to working women to participate in our programs. Many of our Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) pre-apprentices are not only juggling family demands, but working while attending the program. In fact, many join while employed full time and have to give up employment in order to attend. To help these students achieve their career goals while financially sustaining their families, Oregon Tradeswomen responded by offering a night and weekend TACC class this Summer.

Here are some of the participants’ accomplishments observed so far, thanks to the alternative night and weekend schedule:

  • Two TACC participants work full-time jobs during the day and are committed to graduate while preparing for IBEW’s Electrical Apprenticeship.
  • A third student is working full-time as a teacher aid while caring for a newborn and a toddler while attending TACC.
  • Another participant is able to work part-time, care for her kids, and thanks to the current schedule, her husband can watch the kids in the evenings.
  • We also have a participant who is a full-time mom, and is able to leave her kids with their dad in the evenings so that she can attend classes.

Oregon Tradeswomen is able to be responsive to jobseeker needs, and shift our programming with the valuable collaboration of industry partners and we will continue to make our program more accessible. Look for additional evening and weekend classes in 2022!