Thank you, Coast!

Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful to COAST for their support!

With Oregon Tradeswomen’s first Pre-Apprenticeship cohort of 2021 graduating this April, COAST generously provided each graduate with a COAST gift pack of gear that will prove useful as they embark on their brand new skilled trades careers!

Beyond these graduation gifts, COAST is running a special promotion for Oregon Tradeswomen supporters, giving 20% off to their online catalog to anyone who uses code OT20 at checkout!

When we asked why COAST is supporting Oregon Tradeswomen, Marshall Alexander, Live Events and Partnership Manager at COAST, shared:

“We view trades organizations as essential to the growth, development, and advancement of the country, and no one embodies this more than Oregon Tradeswomen. Their commitment to the values of respect, excellence, equity, community, and empowerment, made this an obvious partnership for us to help them achieve their goals. We look forward to growing this partnership well into the future.”

For more than 100 years, COAST has had one goal: Make the American worker’s life safer and easier, both on the job and at home. The third generation of the Brands family continues this mindset with innovative lighting and cutting tools, as well as safety gear, and more. COAST Products continues to push the standard higher into the next generation.

Thanks again to COAST for being there for our students as they take their next steps to apprenticeship and their careers in construction!

Infrastructure Industry Recovery Panel

Investment into our nation’s infrastructure is underway through President Biden’s Build Back Better Initiative and for that public investment to make a difference, the economic recovery needs to be inclusive.  To that end, the National Skills Coalition and Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships  have convened an Infrastructure Industry Recovery Panel of industry leaders to share recommendations on the Biden Administration through meetings with White House advisors, the Departments of Energy and Transportation, and Congressional leadership.

Oregon Tradeswomen’s Executive Director Kelly Kupcak, and Board Treasurer and principle of O’Neill Construction Group, Ali O’Neill were invited to serve on the panel!

Through our participation on the panel, we will be contributing to recommendations which address the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on workers of color, immigrants, and workers with barriers to full employment. Through an equity lens, the panel will make recommendations to work towards dismantling structural racism within workforce education and training. Oregon Tradeswomen is also advocating for the ten strategies for an equitable infrastructure outlined by the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen Issues to be included. While skills training alone will not ensure an inclusive recovery, it should be part and parcel of our national plan and federal public policy.

Wish List

Oregon Tradeswomen is committed to providing quality Pre-Apprenticeship training, but sometimes we need a little help from our community to make sure our students have the tools and gear they need to have a well-rounded trades education!

Whether you have some used items gathering dust in your garage or feel inspired to donate new equipment, Oregon Tradeswomen welcomes your help.

At this moment, our biggest needs are:

  • New computers to run AutoCAD. Autodesk came through for us in a big way by donating AutoCAD software to improve our teaching! Now, we need help securing compatible computers capable of running this powerful program.
  • At least 8 Milwaukee Tool, 18 Volt Lithium-Ion Power Tool batteries. Last year when COVID required us to teach without the sharing of tools – Milwaukee Tool donated enough for each student to have their own workstation.

Can you help us keep students working?  Other items on our wish-list:

  • 25’ 12 and 14 gauge extension cords
  • Shop clamps of various sizes
  • Klein wire strippers (45-120 T5 10-18 AWG)
  • Milwaukee Tools Jigsaw (2781-20 – 5″ w/ slide lock bare tool)
  • 24″ computer monitors

Thank you SO much for making a difference in a woman’s life!

Oregon Tradeswomen Grad Jess Ross Featured in Short Film!

Oregon Tradeswomen Graduate and Ironworker, Jess Ross, was recently featured in a film created by Peripheral Vision, and screened at Communion: A Virtual Film Fest.

The feature with Jess follows her on her way to work as she recalls how she first became interested in Iron work, stories from the field, and what her experience has been like over her 5 year apprenticeship and journeying out.

Watch the film featuring Jess!

We have so much appreciation to Peripheral Vision for uplifting the voices and experiences of tradeswomen. Peripheral Vision PDX is a 501(c)3 nonprofit film production company and training organization dedicated to celebrating the vision, narratives and leadership of marginalized people.

Deena Barbera, Power Line Tree-Trimmer


“2 weeks of work, 8 straight days of 16–17-hour days with only 4 hours of sleep between…”

This is part of a message we received from 2013 Oregon Tradeswomen Program graduate and Power Line Tree Trimmer, Deena Barbera, and we’re both proud of and exhausted for her!

With the inclement weather conditions brought on by the huge winter storm that hit Oregon in February of 2021, Deena worked tirelessly and didn’t stop until power was restored for the thousands of Oregonians who were left without electricity.

Deena and her crew of tree-trimmers are the essential workers who clear the tree debris obstructing power lines, allowing the line-workers access to power lines and restore power to communities facing record power outages. The work of a Power Line Tree Trimmer is crucial for community safety even when they aren’t busy clearing tree debris for the line-workers to restore power during an outage. When trees and tree limbs grow freely around power lines, there is a risk of electric shock or electrocution due to leaves or branches touching the lines. Other times, trees that are left to grow without maintenance and trimming have branches that grow heavy and break, taking power lines down with them.

Deena wasn’t always in the Tree Trimming trade though; before joining Oregon Tradeswomen’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC), she worked in retail. Despite always giving 110% and making it clear she aspired advance in her company, management only offered promises for career mobility – never delivering. Wanting to see real outcomes from her hard work, Deena decided enough was enough and came to Oregon Tradeswomen’s Annual Career Fair. From here, Deena’s eyes opened to a new world of possibility in the construction trades.

During Deena’s time as a pre-apprentice with Oregon Tradeswomen, she built her skills and gained industry knowledge. She also found community in other women like herself who want to work hard, get their hands dirty, and build a better life. Beyond that, Deena shared that “Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship prepared me for what to expect in a male-dominated career.”

After graduating from TACC, Deena first started a career welding and spent 4 years in that line of work before learning about opportunities with NW Line. Intrigued by the trade, Deena went back to Oregon Tradeswomen’s Career Fair to make connections at the NW Line JATC booth and to try out the hands-on activities. With the solid foundation she built during TACC, Deena had the confidence in herself and her abilities to know that she could be successful in the line trades.

Today, Deena is thriving as a 4th Year Apprentice working for Asplundh under the NW Line JATC. When she’s not clearing tree debris during storms and power outages, she and her crew visit sites each day to trim trees within 10 feet on any power line. Some trims are short, while other jobs take hours. Those long-haul jobs are usually “burners,” a shorthand term for trees that make contact with the lines. In those cases, they use special techniques and non-conductive tools to safely clear the trees without getting electrocuted. To say the least, it takes serious skill and precision to be a tree-trimmer.

Trades workers like Deena play such a huge part in keeping our communities safe and functioning! We are so proud of Deena for her hard work, dedication, and accomplishments and are hope she and her team got a lot of much-deserved rest when their work was done doing the critical work to restore power for so many Oregonians who lost electricity during the historic winter storms of February 2021!

Water and Utility Resources from the Portland Water Bureau

OTW May 2018 Oregon Tradeswomen’s 26th Annual Career Fair Water Bureau Activity


Oregon Tradeswomen was recently contacted by a representative at the Portland Water Bureau with some excellent resources for financial assistance to help with business, home, or apartment water and sewer bills, free water testing and conservation kits, toilet rebates, and more!

Check out some of these handy resources from the Portland Water Bureau for more information about the ways they can help you have clean, affordable drinking water in your home or business:

Financial Assistance

If customers qualify based on income, they may be eligible for a discount on their sewer/stormwater/water bill, crisis assistance and free water leak repair for homeowners and more. Attached are print versions of our application for financial assistance. The Water Bureau has an online financial assistance application as well.  Contact Customer Service with questions, or help with applications.

Visit the water bureaus website for more information.

503.823.7770 x 3

Water Efficiency Program

Saving water can help save on your bill! The Water Bureau has free water-saving devices that can be used in the kitchen and bathroom as well as toilet rebates for homes and apartments. Swap out your old toilet with a WaterSense-labeled one and then apply for a rebate online. They also offer technical assistance for commercial customers.  If your water use is higher than expected, give them a call!

Visit the water efficiency program website or contact:


Water Quality Testing

Request a kit to test your drinking water for lead

Some apartments and homes in Portland have lead solder in the plumbing. It is recommended to have your water tested. Order one of the Portland Water Bureau’s lead test kits.

Women’s History Month 2021

Oregon Tradeswomen celebrates and honor the many contributions of women every day, and especially during Women’s History Month and on International Women’s Day, we pause to acknowledge the trailblazing work of women and girls who have pushed to change our nation and our world for the better.

We recognize the women and girls who, despite the barriers and roadblocks of discrimination, courageously and bravely fought for, and continue to fight for:

  • paid family leave and sick leave
  • quality, affordable childcare
  • wage equity and benefits
  • eliminating gender-based violence and jobsite harassment
  • and so much more.

Women and girls who, through persistence and commitment, stand strong in the demands for justice, dignity, and equality.

We celebrate and honor our sisters throughout history and those making history today – especially Black women, Indigenous women, Immigrant women, Trans women, and others from diverse communities are on the front lines of our communities working for a better world for all of us each and every day.

These inspiring, powerful, and passionate women are champions for change, including our sisters in the Tradeswomen Movement. In our recent history, these sisters who paved the way for other women and girls and continue to break the “concrete ceiling” in the construction industry, making the industry better for ALL workers.

Women like:

Portland’s own Donna Hammond, Business Representative at IBEW Local 48 who was one of the first women accepted into the IBEW/NECA apprenticeship program back in 1978 and who is a tireless champion for equity and inclusion in our industry.

Evelyn Shapiro, the first female Executive Secretary-Treasurer to lead the United Brotherhood of Carpenters regional council in the United States and who is leading diversity and equity efforts in her union.

Adrienne Bennett, the first black female master plumber in the U.S. who is now CEO of her own contracting company, Detroit-based Benkari LLC.

Judaline Cassidy, one of the first women to be accepted into Plumbers Local 371 in Staten Island, NY, and the first woman elected to the Examining Board of Plumbers Local No. 1 and founded Tools & Tiaras to inspire girls to be empowered by the trades.

Carolyn Williams, one of the first women to complete Atlanta IBEW Local 613’s apprenticeship program as a journeyman inside wireman and the local’s first woman and person of color to serve as an assistant business manager.

Vicki O’Leary, who at age 21, became an ironworker in Chicago and later went on to become the International union’s General Organizer for Safety and Diversity, where she led the effort for paid maternity leave – the first in the nation’s building trades union, and where she was instrumental in creating “Be That One Guy“, a program to fight jobsite sexual and other harassment.

Pat Williams, trailblazing feminist, and LGBT activist in blue collar trades in Southern California who was one of the first women to enter the Operating Engineers apprenticeship program in Los Angeles in 1979 and later became a District Representative and Vice President of IUOE Local 501.  Pat supports the Tradeswomen Memorial Project at the Long Beach Rosie the Riveter Park and is a co-founder, along with Jamie McMillan, union ironworker of KICKASS Careers.

Sue Doro, creator, and editor of Pride and a Paycheck, the only publication dedicated to tradeswomen and the  Tradeswomen Movement.  Sisters like Molly Martin, Dr. Vivian Price, Dr. Lynn Shaw, and Jane Templin who created the Tradeswomen Archives Project to document and keep the history of tradeswomen’s contributions alive.  Susan Eisenberg, retired IBEW member who became one of the first women in the United States to become a licensed union journey-worker electrician who, for over four decades has advanced issues of tradeswomen through such seminal works as We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction, which brought the issues of discrimination and exclusion that tradeswomen face daily in the industry.

These women, and so many others, continue to change not only our industry, but our world, for the better. Join us in applauding them, honoring them, and celebrating them.

Join us in acknowledging women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias, and taking action for equality as we continue to work together to forge a better world.

In strength and solidarity,

Kelly Kupcak


Your Support is Life-Changing

Tracy Weber: On A Path to Financial Stability and a Secure Future

Tracy graduated from Oregon Tradeswomen’s (OTW) apprenticeship readiness class in March 2020 – the first full class in our brand-new building and workshop before COVID shifted our in-person gatherings.

Since completing OTW’s class, Tracy had another baby and recently started her Carpentry Apprenticeship. We are so happy for Tracy in these next steps in pursuing a career in a trade she had always been interested in but just didn’t know how to get started. OTW is happy to be part of her success story and will be here for future support, training, and connections.

Tracy recently shared her personal story of working in customer service, becoming a mother, and wanting to provide a more stable future for her family at Worksystems’ EOP program presentation at Prosper Portland‘s Board meeting. We invite you to watch it and hear directly from Tracy how she went from working a dead end job, and smoking pot all the time, and not caring about the future, to getting serious to get the training and support needed to pursue a career as a Carpenter.

Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful to our community of supporters and donors who make it possible for strong women like Tracy to get the information, training, and support they need to build strong lives, families, and communities.

A Peek Behind the Curtain – And a Big Thank You

Bringing in the money to keep nonprofits going, year after year, is mostly like a big patchwork quilt your grandma made. It has:

  • Bits of solid old fabric (funders who are with you year after year)
  • Patches of new fabric (new donors) to cover the worn spots
  • Yearly mending to keep the quilt from fraying as the years go by.

Those of us who work at nonprofits often ask each other about this patchwork and share stories of pain and triumph. 2020 started as a year full of hope and excitement – we moved into our beautiful new workshop and training facility in January. We set up desks for our newly expanded staff and welcomed the first group of students into the new classroom where we expected to serve more women and do it more effectively than ever before. On track to offer classes in the evenings and on weekends, we had finally removed one of the historic barriers  preventing more women from taking advantage of this free, life changing resource.

As the year wore on, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under our feet with COVID health and safety restrictions forcing us to cancel classes and our oh-so-beloved annual Career Fair.

But then the light started to shine through the window and help started to show up in many different forms:

  • We’re grateful to the Foundation Partners who called to say that our grant funding could be used to simply get through the year.
  • Long time industry partners, hearing about lost funding, said – “how can we help?” – then they dug deep and doubled or tripled their “normal” investment.
  • A ten year old named Earlie, who saves her money all year to help local nonprofits, sent in a gift of $25 (Thank you Earlie!)
  • When we needed extra tools to set up the training workshop in a COVID-safe way, and I couldn’t reach my local contacts, the leadership team at Milwaukee Tools simply said “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you”
  • When we needed extra lumber and supplies to re-start training, Parr Lumber and Platt Electric donated everything on our wish list.
  • A woman I’ve never met knocked on the front door, told me she had known about our work for some time and thought we might need some help. She sat and wrote us a check saying, “Use it wherever you need it most”.
  • In the first two weeks of the Willamette Week Give!Guide, half of all the donors have made their first gift to the organization.

We’re grateful for every person, for every dollar and for every kind word that has helped us get through this year – including Laura, who sent in $10 and said “I’m unemployed right now, I wish this was more”.

To every single person who has invested in our work and the mission of OTW, and who’s helping us put women to work, giving them and their families a secure future – YOU will forever be part of our well loved patchwork quilt.

Thank you,

Lisa Palermo
Development Director



Construction Careers Education and Career Pathways Navigation Program

Like many nonprofits during this tumultuous year, Oregon Tradeswomen was challenged to shift our training, programming, and services in this time of social distancing due to COVID while still meeting the needs of our community, our industry, and the many women looking to start careers in the skilled construction trades.

Our team turned the challenge into an opportunity to build something bigger, and better, and our updated program and service offerings in 2021 means more women will have access to our training and expanded resources and support, including:

  • Women outside the Portland Metropolitan region
  • Women in rural communities
  • Women living on Tribal Lands
  • Women serving as caretakers during COVID restrictions
  • And many others

In 2021, Oregon Tradeswomen will launch our re-envisioned Construction Careers Education Sessions and will provide additional information, resources, and support to women seeking to enter the skilled construction trades.

We will offer monthly webinars where jobseekers can learn about the many exciting and dynamic opportunities in the skilled trades, learn how to navigate the nuances of registered apprenticeship, the construction industry, and navigate a successful career in the industry.

Whether someone needs more skills, has some experience and needs help putting together a trades resume and preparing for an interview, or needs a bit more support before starting an apprenticeship-readiness program, our Construction Careers Education and Career Pathways Navigation Program team will be there to help.

Stay tuned for a schedule of events coming in January 2021!  We look forward to putting more women to work!