Woman on the Rise Nominations Are In!

2017 Woman on the Rise Award Winners from Left: Katie Kuchta, Isis Harris, Heather Mayther, Carly Rush

On September 28, 2018, Oregon Tradeswomen is hosting our 2nd annual Build With Us! Blue Collar Gala and this year we will be announcing the winners of the 2018 Woman on the Rise awards! These awards were conceived last year as a part of Women in Apprenticeship Day to honor exceptional women in the industry and we wanted to celebrate their accomplishments this year with a larger audience. Here are the 20 women who were nominated by their unions, employers, and peers as Women on the Rise:

Aida Aranda
Journeyman Laborer, LiUNA Local 737

Aida Aranda started her journey as a laborer with LiUNALocal 737. She proved herself on the field as a journeyman laborer and then worked her way up into management. Aida has worked as a Dispatcher, Apprenticeship Coordinator, Organizer, and is currently the Director of the Oregon Laborers Apprenticeship and Training Program. She has proved herself to be a natural leader and a mentor to all.

Gabrielle Cowan
Laborer Apprentice, LiUNA Local 737

Gabrielle Cowan is a go-getter Laborer with Liuna Local 737. Still an apprentice, Gabi is giving the men on the crew at Mortenson a run for their money. She is already a skilled concrete hand and leaves a trail of workers behind her questioning their own abilities when working alongside her. She does her job well, with passion and precision, putting her far ahead of her peers.

Sara Currie
Journeyman Inside Wireman, IBEW Local 48

Sara Currie is an Inside Wireman with Local 48 who has worked her way up to Safety Director at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center. Her motivation and commitment to the industry has gained her the respect of her peers as well as the NIETC Health and Safety community.

Kerri Danay
Sheet Metal Workers, Local 16

Kerri Danay is a Sheet Metal apprentice with Local 16. Kerri was nominated by her peers at McKinstry Co who said that, as a new apprentice, Kerri showed great potential. As she progressed through her apprenticeship, this potential was proven to be more than true. Kerri is a smart, hard working individual and has gotten positive feedback from every foreman she has teamed up with who note that she learns quickly, works safely, is highly productive and is always equipped with a good attitude!

Aisley Deymonaz
Line Worker Apprentice, IBEW Local 387

Aisley Deymonaz was nominated by a Crew Foreman from Arizona Public Service Electric Company (APS) who met Aisley when she was just a pre-apprentice. Aisley’s dedication, integrity, and great attitude immediately stood out to her foreman and he recognized her as #1 out of the 700 young adults who try to get an apprenticeship with APS. She excels at everything she attempts and was the only woman on the 2017 APS Lineman’s Rodeo team where she got 1st place in the hurt man rescue. Her passion was apparent early on to the Brotherhood and they uncharacteristically welcomed her with open arms. Aisley is someone who has earned the respect of a trade that is suspicious of outsiders and broke the mold of what it takes to be a Line Worker.

Danielle Elowe
Journey-level Plumber, Area 1

Danielle Elowe’s apprenticeship program is grateful to have her as she is always willing to help promote the program by putting on workshops and helping with speed mentoring which has helped draw more women to the plumbing trade. Her employer, Weekend Plumber, even gets regular calls from clients who have nothing but wonderful things to say about their experiences working with Danielle!

Jinnie Freeman
Apprentice, Sheet Metal Workers, Local 16

Jinnie Freeman was nominated by her union, Local 16, who describe her as an instrumental and integral part of the union. She puts her heart into anything she does and is a top tier student. Jinnie holds the position as co-chair for their new Minority and Women’s Committee where she organizes and runs meetings as well as always offers help and resources for members in hardship. She even volunteers with Oregon Tradeswomen to support the women who are on their way to starting a career in the skilled trades. Local 16 knows she has a bright future within the union and the industry!

Sandra Holguin
Flagger and Business Owner

Sandra Holguin started her own company, IQ Traffic Services, after disappointment with the lacking of quality employees at a flagging company. She is dedicated to provide a safe work environment for her employees and made sure they had steady employment, housing assistance, and even offered financial assistance. Her big heart and boldness have lent a hand in her success as an entrepreneur!

Ann Lawson
Deconstruction, Lovett

Ann Lawson began her work at Lovett Deconstruction in the field as a crew member. After 9 months, Ann had the opportunity to move up and into the office as an Estimator. In her new role, Ann went above and beyond and quickly took charge of organizing lead meetings, strengthening office culture, insisting on protocols and processes that improve transparency, communication and career mobility within the company. Her dedication to making Lovett a forerunner as an equitable place for women in the trades has been a hallmark of her management. Now as a Project Manager, Ann continually strives to bring a positive, solution-oriented, and team-centered perspective to her work. She contributes exponentially to both the functionality of the business and the quality of its culture, using her brilliant observation, incisive questions, ability to analyze information and situations, and daily joy.

Irene Mcguire
Journey-level Laborer, LiUNA Local 737

Irene Mcguire’s work at Anderson is recognized because no matter the task, Irene will make it happen. Her excellent work ethic and drive for success has left an impression on everyone who has worked with her.

Saylor Neher
Powerline Clearance Tree Trimmer Apprentice, Local 125

Local 125 details that Saylor Neher is an outstanding apprentice and is ahead of the pack in skill and maturity. Saylor repeatedly overcomes obstacles with tenacity and has won over her peers with her winning attitude and solid work ethic. Recently, Saylor proved herself with her impressive results in the PNW Lineman’s Rodeo including an awesome 55′ foot-locking demonstration!

Andrea Presler
Painters Apprentice, IUPAT Local 10

Andrea Presler is said to excel at everything she does and seems to have a natural talent making everything look easy. Leadership comes as second nature to her which goes hand in hand with her deep caring for others. Not only does she already have all her certifications, but she has performed on such a high level that the company she works for pays her at a level that only journeyman make!

Elizabeth “Tissi” Snelson 
Carpenter Instructor, Carpenters Local 1503

Elizabeth “Tissi” Snelson is very involved in her union and since its inception, Tissi has organized the 1503 Pride float. Now, Tissi works at Angel Job Corps as a UBC Carpenter Program Instructor and is excelling in her field!

Jani Turner
Journey-level Laborer, LiUNA Local 737

Jani Turner is a journey-level Laborer at Anderson Structures. Her peers at Liuna Local 737 nominated her as a Woman on the Rise because she is a skilled worker, a leader by example, and a caring teammate. She prioritizes her women’s group, Liuna Women @ Work, and is often used as an example of someone who has found great success in the trades. As someone with a difficult past, Jani uses her own experiences to relate to others and speaks up on behalf of those who haven’t yet found their own voice. She passes on her knowledge by going out of her way to teach, help, and lead others around her.

Stephanie Vasquez
Journey-level Drywall Finisher, IUPAT Local 10

Stephanie Vasquez is a journey-level Drywall Finisher with Local 10 who recently graduated from the Drywall Finishing Apprenticeship. She is said to be an outstanding journey-woman at Cascade Acoustics and actively promotes and recruits women for the Drywall program. Only three years in, Stephanie has already found her stride as a drywall finisher.

Jess Giannettino Villatoro
Political Director, Oregon AFL-CIO

Jess Giannettino Villatoro worked her way up the AFL-CIO because of her passion for workers rights. She exemplifies leadership and is an advocate and ally for all in the construction community. Jess’s persistence in fighting for fair wages, equal opportunities, and protection for families has led to her success.

Erin West
Journeyman Plumber, Area 1

Erin West’s apprenticeship program is grateful for her help in recruiting women for their program. Erin’s employer, Meticulous Plumbing, says that she is excelling in her field and overcomes prejudices of past generations. She continually receives positive feedback and it is clear that she is extremely proud to be a plumber. In her heart, she is setting the path for today’s young women to succeed in the trades.

Melinda Wilson
Journey-level Operating Engineer, IUOE Local 701

Even though she comes across as reserved, Melinda is a highly driven woman that goes for what she wants until she achieves it, no matter how long it takes. Local 701 deeply values Melinda’s work within the union as she is dedicated to doing outreach to other women who are curious about a career in the trades.

Sondra Winters
Journey-level Electrician and Solar Installer

Sondra Winters is a Journey-level Electrician and Solar Installer with the Energy Trust of Oregon. She is a licensed journeyman in Oregon and Washington as well as holds a State of Alaska Electrical Certificate of Fitness. Being able to work in multiple states makes her a great asset to her employer as well as her attention to detail and leadership in whatever crew she is working with. She regularly gets rave reviews from customers for going above and beyond. Sondra also is an active member of her community, organizing rafting trips, hikes, and volunteering with Girls Build.

Suzanne Young
Journey-level Roofer, Roofers Local 49

Suzanne’s union, Local 49, nominated her because everyone from her apprenticeship peers to her instructors enjoyed her presence in the program. She grew to become an excellent mentor to others and even takes time off from work to do outreach in the community for new female apprentices. Her work is decorated as she graduated among the top of her class and took 1st place in the 2017 West Coast Roofers Apprenticeship Competition. The International Union Office is even flying her back to Washington DC to do an article on her for her progress and help in recruiting for a more diverse workforce!

Congratulations to OTI’s Building Girls Summer Work Crew!

OTI is incredibly proud of the young women in our Building Girls Summer Work Crew who just finished up four weeks of learning to build! They constructed a large arbor at Nadaka Nature Park!


Photo captions: Building at Camp Westwind (left), Tylea stands in the hole she dug all by herself in preparation for the construction of an arbor (middle); Finished arbor (right).

OTI’s 2015 Building Girls Summer Work Crew graduated on July 9th and celebrated with cake and refreshments. Congratulations, everyone! We’re so proud of you and what you accomplished in only 4 weeks!



Building Girls Scholarship Fund

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. welcomes the support of the business community to help us fulfill our mission to engage more women and girls in the trades. Our newest opportunity is a scholarship fund program supporting the impactful work of our Building Girls program, namely, our summer camp.

OTI’s Building Girls program helps fill a critical gap for young women by offering ways to explore the variety of exciting, high-paying careers in the trades. Through supervised hands-on construction experience, positive skills coaching, and working directly with female role models, Building Girls fulfills an unmet community need introducing young women to career possibilities they may never have considered an option.
The program offers several opportunities for young women to engage in an exploration: Building Girls Work Crew, our Women in Trades Fair and our annual Building Girls summer construction camp. Currently, we are seeking scholarship fund contributions from businesses to help offset the cost and create more opportunities for involvement in our summer construction camp.

Girls’ summer construction camp is a fun and exciting adventure where girls have fun and learn through hands on activities. The camps are structured for middle school and high school girls, and is a great opportunity to learn trades skills and make new friends. The cost is $600 per girl to attend one week of summer camp.

With your contribution of $600 towards our Building Girls scholarship fund program, your business can help a girl learn the skills of the trades by participating in activities like building a play house, making concrete stepping stones, welding table bases and tile table tops, solder pipes, and so much more. Your company will also be listed as a supporter of the program on our web site, receive acknowledgement on our social media platforms and will receive a mention in our e-newsletter. You will also receive an invitation to visit the camp, or attend the camp celebration, to see your generous donation at work!

Please contact Dennise M. Kowalczyk – Development Director – at dennise@tradeswomen.net or call 503.335.8200, X 38 for more information. Please join us in promoting the success for girls and women in the trades through education, leadership, and mentorship by becoming a scholarship fund contributor.


Nike Employee Grant Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation awards OTI

OCF Logo

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. (OTI) has received a generous $15,000 grant from the Nike Employee Grant Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation to support OTI’s Building Girls program’s Building Girls Working Together – a trades work experience in which low—income young women learn the value of on-the-job training and the rewards and benefits of a trades careers within an all-female learning environment.

“We are thrilled to receive this gift from The Nike Employee Grant Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation and are honored for their support of our program to introduce young women to careers they may not have otherwise ever considered possible,” said Katie Yablonsky, Building Girls Program Manager at OTI. “The curriculum of our program not only offers young women basic building and construction skills, but they will also receive various life-skills training to assist them in many aspects of their adult life such as nutrition, financial planning, and self-defense,” Yablonsky concluded.

BG Group Shot

OTI’s Building Girls Work Crew addresses the lack of trades careers education and training for young women. For four weeks, low-income participants, ages 16-24, will work 3 days per week alongside skilled and experienced tradeswomen. The curriculum focuses on the proper and safe usage of power tools, lifting heavy supplies and tools, framing walls, installing metal roofing, and safety etiquette, all in a positive and supportive environment. Participants will gain the physical skills, self-esteem, and confidence necessary for a career previously considered non-traditional for women.

In addition to the hands-on experiences, the Building Girls Work Crew also provides education in nutrition, self-defense, financial management, resume writing, job-search skills, and typical job expectations. These wrap-around services will assist young women in developing the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace, whether they decide to enter a trades apprenticeship, entry-level trades job, or a non-trades career.

OTI is dedicated to promoting success for women in the trades through education, leadership, and mentorship. OTI is grounded in the principles that women deserve and can attain economic self-sufficiency through pursuing careers in the building, mechanical, electrical, utility, and highway construction trades while helping and encouraging the industry at large to build a diverse workforce.

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. thanks the employees of Nike and the Oregon Community Foundation for this generous gift!

Juan Young Trust Awards Grant to OTI

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. is pleased to announce the recent award of $7,500 from the Juan Young Trust for our Building Girls program. In this award cycle, the Eastern Division of the Trust received 43 applications requesting over $411,000. Their grant budget was $200,000.

Our goals for the Building Girls program for 2014-2015 are to serve over 1,600 girls through both hands-on and other educational activities through the Building Girls program. The program encourages middle and high school girls to view careers in construction as exciting and viable options through positive skills coaching, exposure to female role models, career pathways guidance and supervised hands-on construction experiences, well as fun and practical math skill-building activities. Building Girls efforts include five youth initiatives: School-Based Activities, School Partnerships & Collaborations, Women in Trades Career Fair Girls’ Days, Building Girls Construction Summer Camp, and Building Girls Work Crew.

Nationally, women continue to make up less than 3% of the construction workforce. In Oregon, female apprentices are on the rise, but still only 5.9% are women. Apprenticeship, paid-on-the-job training, is the way in which most workers access living wage careers in the building and construction, trades. Not only are fewer women accessing apprenticeship programs, fewer girls are enrolling in career/technical classes. The number of young women enrolled in professional technical classes continues to be far below the number of young men, though Title IX opened the doors of “shop” classes to young women in 1972. Reaching young women while they are still in school and before they decide upon a future career path is critical for the future trades workforce, as well as for the trades industry employers.

January 2015 – Oh, what a month!

All kinds of love headed OTI’s way since my last post about such matters.  It is so thrilling to hear from our members how much they love OTI and how they join us in our collective vision to help women pursue work in the trades.

At our recent annual meeting, we visited with almost 70 attendees to talk about what we did accomplish over the past year and all the great opportunity that is available to us in 2015.

Please visit our Facebook page to see more photos from our Annual Meeting!


Our accomplishments for 2014 include:

• 79 women graduated from our Pathways pre-apprenticeship program in 2014.
• We helped 88 women get their first job in the trades or move up to apprenticeship.
• 75 graduates landed their first job in the trades with an average hourly wage of $15.18.
• 1441 girls and educators attended our annual Women in Trades Career Fair.
• 76 girls attended our Summer Girls Construction Camp through our Building Girls program.

We also gave away great raffle prizes!  Thanks to Portland Spirit, Tradeswomen, Inc., Miss Zumstein Bakery & Coffee Shop, Ristretto Roasters, and Hankins Hardware for donating some really sweet prizes. A special shout out of thanks to Doris, our amazing volunteer, who did the work at getting most of these goodies into our hands.

We received great news from these foundations as they sent us very generous support for our various programs:

  • NW Health Foundation – $50,000 – Building Equity – Creating a Construction Culture that Supports Women and People of Color
  • The Autzen Foundation- $3,000 – Building Girls
  • The Jim & Dianna Murphy Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation – $10,000 – Supporting programs that encourage girls and women to explore careers in transportation and trucking


I had the pleasure of hand delivering several certificates of appreciation to a few of our long-time sponsors of our annual career fair. I visited with NW Natural, RR Donnelley, PacifiCorp and Gunderson.

Our 2015 Career Fair is taking place May 14 – 16 — learn more here!

If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to OTI today in order to support our efforts to promote success for women and girls in the trades through education, leadership, and mentorship, please click here – thank you!

— Dennise M. Kowalczyk (Development Director)

Giving Back: A Donation to Raphael House


The young women who participated in OTI’s Building Girls Construction Club at Wilson High School Construction Club embraced the spirit of the season and they made a donation to Raphael House, a domestic violence agency dedicated to ending intimate partner violence for good.

As part of the great work they did to learn about woodworking, carpentry, and construction, they took on the task of making a variety of wooden toys – with the intention of donating them to a local organization in need.

Just before Christmas, Ana Gonzalez came by the OTI office to meet with Katie Yablonski, OTI’s Building Girls Program Manager. Katie gave her the toys the young women in the Wilson High School Construction Club made. Ana is a 2010 Graduate of OTI’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class and currently the Facilities Coordinator at Raphael House. She was touched by the thoughtfulness of the young women we work with and pleased to take the toys back to Raphael House.