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!
In 2019, Jamie Jarrett came to Oregon Tradeswomen with a tenacious drive to change her life. Having grown up in a cycle of poverty without a strong support system, Jamie found herself battling drug addiction and had to do whatever she could to make ends meet to survive. From working in a strip club, to managing a fast-food kitchen, the opportunities available to her did not provide the long-term stability she needed to live a happy, healthy life.
Despite the barriers she faced, Jamie’s determination to overcome adversity was a key asset as she evaluated what she needed to do to secure a bright future for herself. She originally found out about Oregon Tradeswomen (OTW) from her fiancé, a union carpenter who had worked with an OTW graduate in the field. It wasn’t until a miserable day at work that Jamie seriously considered pursuing a career in construction. With fire in her belly, Jamie did everything she could to get involved with Oregon Tradeswomen, attending events, social hours, and information sessions until she was selected for the Fall Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class of 2019.
Joining this training cohort offered Jamie a positive community of women that fostered friendliness and support. Jamie told us, “I have never experienced an environment like this before where women were helping each other instead of fighting to get ahead.” This support system did not end with the 8-week program. Being the only woman on a job-site can sometimes be isolating, but having a network of women who are going through similar experiences is a truly invaluable resource.
When Jamie finished her 8 weeks of pre-apprenticeship training, she set her sights on the electrical trade because of her enjoyment of science and math. Jamie also got involved with various Facebook groups for electrical apprentices and female electricians to get a better idea of what the work would be like. When she saw photos of huge substations and carefully bent conduit, her excitement for the trade intensified. “If I was to go and learn something new, I knew I wanted to bend pipe and make an electrical room look like what I saw online. There is something aesthetically pleasing about electrical work,” Jamie explained.
Jamie is now a 4th term electrical apprentice at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center where she now goes to work every day looking forward to learning new things and putting them in practice. Not only does she love her job, but she has broken through the cycle of poverty. Jamie shared with us that, “In the trades, I know I can be on my own and be okay. I know I have food to eat every day, I have an apartment to go home to every night, and I have health insurance for the first time in my entire life.” The newfound security and comfort in her life, both financially and mentally, also allows her to take time off to visit places she has always wanted to see. She also stresses that “I never thought five years ago that I would be here and working towards a career that is good for my whole life, that nobody can take away from me. No matter what I go through in my life, I will always have this.”
When we asked Jamie about what motivates her to keep going on the hard days, she said that the progress she has made since she took her first steps at Oregon Tradeswomen just about two years ago is what inspires her. In those two years, her life took a total 180 degrees all on her own merit. “I have achieved so much,” Jamie says. “So far I have completed three terms of schooling and have gotten straight A’s. The fact that I want to go to school and learn feels so good!” Jamie proved to herself that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to and that is a power in of itself.
Jamie’s optimism about the future is undeniable. Her goal is to give back to the next generation of tradeswomen by becoming an instructor at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center, but for the time being she is truly enjoying her day-to-day as an electrician. Her love of the work and the stability it affords prompts Jamie to help other women navigate to a career in the trades. She is open about her own journey and how getting involved with Oregon Tradeswomen changed her life. When asked why someone should support Oregon Tradeswomen, she says, “They give chances to people that might not ever have had any. If Oregon Tradeswomen didn’t take a chance on me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Its stories like Jamie’s that keeps our mission moving forwards. When we hear Jamie say, “my biggest achievement is learning who I am supposed to be,” and that “being in the construction world has been that piece that I was missing,” we know we are making a concrete impact on people’s lives. Everyone deserves to have a career that they love, and everyone deserves to have a prevailing wage with generous benefits.
Oregon Tradeswomen is proud to be a part of Jamie’s success story, but it was her perseverance that got her to where she is today.
Oregon Tradeswomen has offered Monthly Social Hours for years as a way for tradeswomen to connect with each other and provide educational experiences through topics and guest speakers. As a tradeswoman, it is commonplace to be the only woman on a jobsite, and the opportunity to connect with other women in the trades is such an important aspect for the retention of women in construction careers.
When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted us last year, our Retention Services Coordinator, Kim Neel, knew it was more important than ever to offer a way for tradeswomen to continue to have an opportunity for support and socializing. With that, OTWednesdays was created, a virtual Social Hour taking place on the third Wednesday of every month!
Unlike past Social Hours, OTWednesdays is more of an open format, with no topics or guest speakers, just pure connection between tradesworkers of all ages and experiences. There is something so special about seeing the mentorship between veteran tradeswomen and those who are just getting started on their paths with the sharing of stories, advice on surviving apprenticeship, and tips on how to earn the respect of their male peers. At a recent social hour, we had a tile-setter named Joanne who had been in her trade since the 1980’s who generously answered questions from some upcoming pre-apprenticeship students who were excited about their new careers, but a little nervous about what to expect. From advice on what PPE (personal protective equipment) to invest in to how to approach learning a new tool, the exchange of information was inspiring to witness and it was clear that the novice tradesworkers there took Joanne’s advice to heart.
A unique aspect of our virtual format is that other supporters of tradeswomen can join in to connect and learn. Sometimes industry partners join to provide opportunities to tradeswomen to advance their careers, offering a foot in the door for elevated positions like Construction Inspector or Surveyor. We have even been joined by regional legislators like Sue Chew, Idaho State Representative District 17, who want to learn more about tradeswomen issues as well as provide resources for professional development opportunities. We are grateful for those in our industry and those who are supporters of the tradeswomen movement for their commitment and involvement.
As the pandemic begins to wind down and we look to the future for what is on our horizon, we are evaluating how to best offer support to tradeswomen. While we cannot wait to host Social Hours in our own building, we have seen the value of providing a virtual space for tradeswomen and their supporters to gather and collaborate. Many tradeswomen are tired after a long day of hard work and to have to go home, change out of their work gear, and head out to a social gathering is not always easy. But, to be able to settle in to a comfy chair after work and simply log in to Zoom, the opportunity to socialize is available to a wider community of tradesworkers and their supporters!
The connection between tradeswomen is so valuable, and our goal is to offer easy access to a supportive community that can provide advice and camaraderie. Being a tradeswoman is a unique experience and the hurdles that can come with it can become more manageable when there is a place for others with similar experiences to gather and socialize.
Ruby grew up in Boulder Colorado and has been around carpentry most of her life. Her Dad is a finish carpenter, but until recently, she never thought about it as an option for herself.
Ruby moved to Portland in 2010 for college – taking a year to establish residency. After more than 7 years in and out of college and working full time, being broke, and stressed out, Ruby came to a turning point.
She was working in the lumber department of Home Depot, the first woman to work there, and struggling to juggle the demands of a full time job and going to school full time and studying. One afternoon, a customer noticed Ruby’s hard work and hustle. The customer said, “Hey, you work really hard and we need people like you in the trades. My union sponsors this organization, Oregon Tradeswomen. You should check them out.”
Ruby looked into our programs and the timing was perfect. After applying and getting accepted into Oregon Tradeswomen’s Summer 2018 Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC), she was laid off from her job in the lumber yard, but pursued our training program anyway. “It was an incredible struggle at that time. I lost my health insurance, and my ability to access needed care and medication. I was in a dysfunctional housing situation, too. It was a really huge milestone for me to graduate. My whole family was there at graduation which was really meaningful for me, and the whole experience has truly been life changing.”
Wanting to go into the Ironworkers apprenticeship, Ruby put in her application and went to work at Vigor as a temporary employee. It wasn’t long before she heard back from the Ironworkers. She was accepted, went through orientation and started out as a rod buster. “It was the most incredibly difficult work I have ever done or will ever do.”
Ruby wasn’t sure this was a good fit for her, but she isn’t the type to just show up and quit, so she kept doing the hard work “More than 9 months into my apprenticeship, I was either carrying a heavy load on one shoulder or stooped over tying rod all day. When I realized this wasn’t going to be a long term fit for me, and that I needed a change, I started exploring residential carpentry.”
After doing some research, Ruby submitted a few applications with local companies, and in a couple of months, she got an offer. This was a turning point for Ruby in her career path. She was hired on by Green Gables Design and Restoration as a laborer two years ago. “I took a pay cut, but it was okay, because I knew it was the place I wanted to be. My first week with the company, I thought they were playing a trick on me because the people were so nice, respectful, and easy to work with. The culture was relaxed, friendly, and positive.” The teamwork oriented crew helped her feel excited to learn.
And learning is one of the things Ruby loves most about her career. “I love that I am constantly being asked by the work to use my brain and my body in creative ways. There is always something to learn, something new, even if I’m digging a hole, there some unexpected thing I learn. I also appreciate that this is viewed as an asset by the people I’m working with.”
When we asked Ruby to share something that would surprise us, she shared, “I am very business-like when I get to work, and in layers and rain gear, we all look the same. People are probably surprised when I take my gloves off. I like to paint my nails – I’m femme.”
When asked to reflect back on her time in the class, Ruby said:
“I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience! Oregon Tradeswomen allowed me to get out of the ‘poverty track’ – the jobs available to me where I could just barely scrape by. Graduating from OTW got me out of that cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. But it wasn’t easy! It was a hard class. OTW is not kidding around. It’s a serious program. But it paid off. It’s a stepping stone or a gateway to a different level of prosperity!”
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.
Given the significant demand for diverse, skilled, and qualified construction workers in the area to meet industry labor demands, Oregon Tradeswomen piloted our apprenticeship – readiness-training program, Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) in Redmond, Oregon in September 2019. The pilot training was made possible by generous support from our union trades partners who provided critical support to make the class in Redmond a reality. From holding mock interviews, to providing hands-on instruction, to hosting graduation at UA Local 290 – our industry partners were involved to ensure the pilot was successful. Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful for their commitment to helping women gain access to great careers with good wages so they can support themselves and their families!
With financial support from North America’s Building Trades Unions in Washington, D.C. and local support from Robert Camarillo, Executive Secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, Oregon Tradeswomen was able to work with regional industry and community partners in Central Oregon. In turn, our partners in Central Oregon were critical in helping to recruit jobseekers and connect to local employers: Heather Fitch and East Cascades Workforce Board, Wendell Jim at the Warm Springs Tribal Employment Resource Office, Rena Gibney of the Oregon Department of Human Services Self-Sufficiency Programs and Joe Mizzolo of WorkSource Redmond and our many friends at Central Oregon Community College for all of their support as well.
Thanks to our industry partners for lending their time, talent and support to this project:
- UA Local 290
- NECA IBEW Electrical Training Center and IBEW Local 48
- NECA IBEW Central Training Center and IBEW Local 280
- Oregon Laborers Apprenticeship & Training
- Cement Masons Apprenticeship Local 555
- Ironworkers Apprenticeship Local 29
- Roofers Apprenticeship Local 49
- Pacific Northwest Carpenters Training Institute
- IUOE Local 701 Apprenticeship
- Oregon Bricklayers and Allied Crafts
Oregon Tradeswomen also extends immense gratitude to our friend Dave Burger of UA Local 290. Dave went above and beyond to ensure this pilot training in Redmond was successful. He arrived early, stayed late, and offered tremendous support to our team as well as to jobseekers. Dave connected program participants to one another for transportation, support, helped refer women to the program, cooked food for program participants and staff, and demonstrated what an industry partner committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion looks like. Oregon Tradeswomen is eternally grateful.
Fifteen program participants completed the apprenticeship readiness training program and received a pre-apprenticeship training certificate from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, demonstrating their competencies and achievement in being prepared for registered apprenticeship and employment in the skilled trades. Oregon Tradeswomen was honored to host Oregon’s Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle as our keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony. Commissioner Hoyle’s service to the great state of Oregon, and her commitment to equity and justice, made us proud to have her speak to the graduates and their families.
Congratulations to the TACC program graduates – we wish them all well on their journey forward!
- Wanda Berry
- Eva Brewer
- Kayla Burns
- Claudia (Paloma) Castro
- Laura (K.K) Crowe
- Audreanna (Audrey) De La Rosa
- Lianna Erwert
- Peggy Gilbert
- Susan Guerin
- Camille Hernandez
- Lara Martinez
- Damaris Monroy
- Kelli Moody
- Susan Mulkey
- Ryleigh Shiner
- Amelia Templeton
Since the introduction of the Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) concept, there has been concern in the field about creating another form of apprenticeship including oversight, alignment, equity components, and guidance on how employers implement anti-harassment and discrimination requirements as well as other issues such as portability, and industry standards. The DOL’s proposed rule would formally include IRAPs in the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR Part 29) that govern the RA system under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937.
Additionally, the rule aims to establish a process to authorize third-party “Standards Recognition Entities (SREs)” that would recognize IRAPs. The proposed rule describes what entities may become SREs; what their responsibilities and requirements would be; hallmarks of the high-quality apprenticeship programs they would recognize; and how the administrator of the Office of Apprenticeship would interact with them. The rule also describes how IRAPs would operate in parallel with the RA system.
This proposed rule change is an important moment that will affect the future of apprenticeship and access, opportunity and equity in apprenticeship – please take time to respond to public comment in sharing your knowledge and expertise during this comment period.
The deadline to submit comments is August 26, 2019! Please make your voice heard!
No one said it was easy being a tradeswoman and a mom, but being a tradeswoman can give you the financial security to provide for your family. Trillium Ward began her journey into the skilled trades as a single mother of two, working as a drug and alcohol counselor for kids and young adults. Her job as a counselor was challenging work that only paid $12.50 an hour, hardly enough to support a family of three. Public assistance was helpful, but this was not the life Trillium imagined for herself. She had always loved working with her hands and took wood-shop, metal-shop, and other vocational programs her high school offered which focused on hands-on learning. With these experiences, the skilled trades started to look quite appealing as a new career option.
Trillium first applied to become an electrical apprentice with the IBEW, but didn’t score high enough on the application process to enter the program. After hearing about Oregon Tradeswomen around the community, she decided to enroll in the pre-apprenticeship program, the Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC). She knew that going through this program would be like receiving an endorsement of her qualifications and ability to succeed in the field. She was accepted to a special session of TACC that ran at night, which allowed her to continue working full time to support her family. If that wasn’t enough to demonstrate her commitment, she was also simultaneously taking a welding class on weekends!
After all her hard work in Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship program, Trillium graduated from TACC, re-applied to the IBEW’s apprenticeship program, and was accepted! As an apprentice, she immediately made $3 more per hour than she did as a drug and alcohol counselor. Being a single mother at the time, it was imperative to have a support network of family and other moms to help out with childcare because a typical day for Trillium started at 4:00 am! Thankfully, just 6 months into her apprenticeship, Trillium made enough money to get off of state assistance and afford daycare. Her advice to mothers thinking about pursuing a career in the trades is to “make sure you have reliable daycare that can accommodate early mornings and the ability to be flexible with your schedule!”
Just 5 years after starting on this new path, Trillium journeyed out of the Electrical apprenticeship! This is an incredibly proud accomplishment for her, because she managed to meet all of the strict program requirements around attendance and grades, all while having a new baby with her partner. Trillium is currently working for Oregon Electric Group where she runs bus ducts, installs conduits, pulls wire, creates panels, and installs lights among – other things. Trillium loves how her work keeps her brain engaged – whether she is learning new technology, new skills, or being put in different situations requiring adaptation and problem-solving. The hardest part about her job is the lack of continuity. When the people you work with, your start time, and your commute change regularly, its hard to plan for the future.
The biggest barrier Trillium faces as a woman in the trades is not outright harassment, but that compared to the men on her crews, she is not taken seriously. As a result, she has to to above and beyond to prove herself on every job-site – otherwise the men frequently assume that she isn’t competent. This becomes exhausting when you’re changing job-sites regularly – having to prove your worth with a new crew each time. Trillium’s advice for other tradeswomen is to help support other women. Solidarity is important in this field, so when you see other women, reach out, because the isolation can be hard.
In the end, the hard work pays off. Trillium says, “The amount of change in my financial status, going from poverty and living paycheck to paycheck, to financial freedom where I can buy a home and go on vacation has made a world of difference in my life and my children’s lives.”
In 2018, Mary Ann Naylor, Oregon Tradeswomen’s Communications and Marketing Director, was approached directly by Linda Sellheim of LinkedIn Learning, also known as Lynda.com, a massive online learning resource for professional development. Linda was interested in creating a video series for LinkedIn Learning exploring careers in the construction trades, what working those jobs entails, and dispelling myths about the trades along the way. Most importantly, she was looking for a tradeswoman to be the face and voice leading the series!
After a productive meeting with Oregon Tradeswomen’s Development and Communications team, we directed Linda to the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center (NIETC) and our friend Bridget Quinn, who works as their Workforce Development Coordinator. We knew Bridget would be a prime candidate to lead a series on construction fundamentals. Not only is Bridget a Journey-level tradeswoman, but her role at the NIETC revolves around working with prospective apprentice-applicants to provide them with resources and guidance needed to successfully access union apprenticeship. Bridget is also a huge ally for Oregon Tradeswomen when we hold our Annual Career Fair at the Electrical Training Center and is a recipient of the Daily Journal of Commerce’s Women of Vision Award in 2017!
We are pleased to share links to the LinkedIn Learning track featuring Bridget Quinn. Videos are live on LinkedIn Learning and we encourage you to preview this incredible resource we hope will help many understand and access the world of the construction trades!
Would you like to learn about the possibilities a career as an electrician offers? The NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center is hosting four “Wire a Light” workshops for women who have an interest in the electrical trades. During this free workshop, you can learn how to wire a light, meet women electricians in the industry, and find out how to start your career as an electrician.
Dates & Registration:
September 19, 2019
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Register for the 9/19 workshop
December 5, 2019
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Register for the 12/5 workshop
NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center
16021 NE Airport Way
NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center is accessible via TriMet bus lines 74 and 87.