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”

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.

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

Workforce Partner Spotlight: Autodesk

Aerial view of the Autodesk offices in Portland, Oregon.

Oregon Tradeswomen is always grateful to our Workforce Partners for their commitment to a diverse and equitable workforce. When we moved in to our new office space in the Rockwood neighborhood, complete with a workshop for our pre-apprenticeship training program, Autodesk helped us out with a donation including AutoCAD 360 software to help us take our hands-on training to the next level. Autodesk is changing how the world is designed and made. Their technology spans architecture, engineering, construction, product design, manufacturing, media, and entertainment, empowering innovators everywhere to solve challenges big and small. From greener buildings to smarter products to mesmerizing blockbusters, Autodesk software helps their customers to design and make a better world for all.

When we asked Autodesk about why they support Oregon Tradeswomen, they shared, “Autodesk is incredibly proud to support Oregon Tradeswomen and share in its mission to advance change within the industry, for both our current and next generation of trade workers. Their important work challenges the traditionally male-dominated narrative of the industry, replacing it with one that empowers underrepresented populations and celebrates gender inclusivity, economic independence and wage equality for all. It’s an especially critical undertaking as our society continues to contend with a significant skilled and technical labor shortage. Our Autodesk team is honored to work hand-in-hand with such a purpose-driven organization to help make inroads to the industry.”

Thank you Autodesk for supporting the learning and growth of the next generation of tradeswomen!

2021 Summer Tool and Gear Swap

For the first time since we moved in to our new office in the Rockwood neighborhood, we opened our doors to the community this August for our Summer Tool and Gear Swap!

Oregon Tradeswomen continues the tradition of these Tool and Gear Swaps becausebuilding up an arsenal of tools at the beginning of a career in the construction trades can cost hundreds of dollars. This event offers a way for tradeswomen to gather tools they need for free, and it brings our tradesworker community and our new Rockwood community together!

We were thrilled to see such an enthusiastic turnout of graduates and friends of the organization as well as some new friendly faces! It was heartening to witness connections being made and information shared over the selection of tools. One Oregon Tradeswomen graduate even came to the event to help re-build another graduate’s tool library after their equipment was stolen from their car. Whenever our network of tradesworkers come together, it is clear that the bonds that are made under our roof are long-lasting!

We cannot forget to thank our wonderful business partners Neil Kelly, Knife River, and Milwaukee Tool who provided eager volunteers to help us run the event! We are so grateful for our partners’ willingness to pitch in and make this event run smoothly!

Now that the Tool and Gear Swap is over, we are filled with elation at the strength of our community and absolutely cannot wait to spend more time with you all! Your next opportunity to join the Oregon Tradeswomen community is every third Wednesday of the month at our virtual Social Hours and this October at Build With Us! Oregon Tradeswomen’s Blue Collar Gala! We hope to see you there!

Build Back Better: A visit from U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh

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

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

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visited Oregon and came to the UA Local 290 Springfield Training Center to talk about the Biden administration’s #BuildBackBetter plan and the goal of building an inclusive, worker-centered economy.

Secretary Walsh was joined by Representative Peter DeFazio, Oregon Labor Commissioner, Val Hoyle, and other labor leaders around the state. Together, they discussed the pending infrastructure bill and how the Biden administration plans to invest in apprenticeship and advancements for workforce equity.

The same day, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan physical infrastructure bill including substantive investments in roads, bridges, rail, transit, and utilities. The amendment for workforce equity which would increase access for women and people of color on infrastructure construction jobs was not included in the final bill.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle listens to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh

Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle listens to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh

Our tradeswomen community will continue to work for equitable access and opportunities for women and people of color in the construction industry and is so appreciative of the Labor Secretary’s visit to advocate for registered apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and infrastructure investments to benefit all workers. When asked by Oregon Tradeswomen’s Executive Director, Kelly Kupcak, about his leadership at the U.S. Department of Labor, he outlined a comprehensive commitment to all workers, migrants, women, disabled persons, veterans, and BIPOC. He concluded by saying “Equity is in my DNA”.

Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful for Secretary Walsh’s leadership and his dedication to equity and fighting for worker dignity on the front lines.

Workforce Partner Spotlight: Streimer Sheet Metal

When Oregon Tradeswomen’s founders came together, the idea of women working in the construction trades was a radical idea. While we are still on the road to a construction workforce with an equal representation of women and men on the job-site, the face of the construction industry is definitely changing.

Much of this shift is a result of the commitment of Oregon Tradeswomen’s Workforce Partners who empower our organization to continue giving women the tools to succeed and who embrace our mission to increase women’s participation on job sites across our region. We are grateful to Workforce Partners like Streimer Sheet Metal who have made an active effort to hire women, including a number of Oregon Tradeswomen graduates.

We spoke with Streimer Sheet Metal’s HR Manager, Teresa Bergan, about why they support Oregon Tradeswomen as a Workforce Partner. Teresa explained, “Streimer supports Oregon Tradeswomen because learning a trade is an educational pathway to a great career choice that raises women above the everyday career. Streimer supports and partners with Oregon Tradeswomen to train women who are looking for a career in the sheet metal craft. Those graduates become employees that become a voice and an ambassador of Streimers’ dedication to excellence and professionalism in the construction industry.”

Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful for Streimer’s commitment to the tradeswomen movement, and their positive impact on the industry. We invite you to meet some of the incredible tradeswomen on their team:

Meet the Women of Streimer Sheet Metal:

 

The Hardhats with Heart Initiative

Did you know construction workers are disproportionately affected by heart disease? One in four tradesworkers have high blood pressure, some even being unaware of it before its too late! While construction careers are active jobs, some even say a replacement for the gym, that doesn’t automatically grant tradesworkers a path to great health. After speaking with Lily Banning of the American Heart Association (AHA), we learned there are multiple factors for this heightened risk for heart-attack and stroke for tradesworkers.

Hardhats with Heart is an initiative under the AHA that came to existence when a volunteer, Bart Dickson, President and Founder of Cobalt, spoke up about the frankly unacceptable amount of times he had to make calls to the families of his workers to let them know their loved ones had suffered from a heart attack or stroke on the jobsite. After some investigation, it became clear that there is a direct connection between stress and heart health for tradesworkers with the mental and physical demands of the jobs often being exacerbated by unhealthy coping habits such as poor diet, increased use of energy drinks, use of tobacco products, as well as lack of information about the warning signs of cardiovascular disease.

The AHA is also exploring the role of workplace culture as a contributing factor to overall stress levels and heart health. Jobsites where workers experience harassment and discrimination are hostile work environments which not only negatively impact worker safety, productivity, and retention, but also heart health and overall well-being! These impacts are intensified for women and BIPOC tradesworkers, which is why Oregon Tradeswomen focused on jobsite culture change work: we are an affiliate trainer of RISE Up – a bystander intervention model to prevent bullying and harassment, and part of the work around Safe From Hate which calls on all industry stakeholders in the construction industry to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion by clearly addressing jobsite culture.

With help from construction companies and construction-adjacent organizations like Oregon Tradeswomen, the American Heart Association started Hardhats with Heart in 2017 with three local priorities here in Oregon: Increase access and education about healthy diets, help tradesworkers manage chronic disease, and reduce the high risk of heart disease in tradeswomen. Hardhats with Heart is working hard with the local construction industry to provide jobsite trainings on health and stress-management, offering on-site blood pressure screenings, and creating a virtual Resource Hub for tradesworkers and their employers to learn more about the simple ways they can help prevent heart disease and deaths.

This online Resource Hub is dedicated to health information specific to the construction industry with the intent of being free and easily available. Subjects include nutrition, mental well-being, fitness, managing blood pressure, and more! When we asked the AHA’s Community Impact Director, Lily Banning, about what she wanted our audience to know about these online resources, she told us, “Hardhats with Heart is rolling out a series of industry-wide trainings for free! There is a focus on a different topic for every month starting this July, running through December. We encourage all tradesworkers and their employers to join in on the conversation and get their questions answered!”

Hardhats with Heart looks to continue improving its resources and the services they offer to tradesworkers so that the number of lives lost from preventable disease is reduced. To do this, they want to hear from you! What are you doing to take care of your health? Is there a focus on health, both heart specific and holistically, on your jobsite? What can Hardhats with Heart do for you?

If you are passionate about this issue and want to contribute or want to learn more about how to get involved with Hardhats with Heart, please contact Lily Banning at Lily.Banning@heart.org.

As a community, the goal is to provide free and easy to access free resources to help inspire and equip tradesworkers to live longer, healthier lives.

 

2021 DJC Building Diversity Awards

Congratulations to the DJC Building Diversity award honorees who were recognized at the virtual event this month! We were so thrilled to see our Executive Director, Kelly Kupcak, honored for her work in the furthering equity and justice in the construction industry as a part of the Safe From Hate Alliance. We thank the DJC for their commitment to keeping this issue at the forefront of our community and industry, and for shining a light on the good work happening in our community to help make our jobsites more inclusive and respectful for all workers.
It was just a year ago when UA Local 290 apprentice and Oregon Tradeswomen pre-apprenticeship graduate, Leslie Cotton, took brave actions that launched an industry-wide regional initiative. After reporting a noose that had been hung on her jobsite weeks earlier and no action being taken, Leslie took it upon herself to remove the noose and contact Oregon Tradeswomen. These bold actions resulted in industry and community coming together to take the Safe From Hate Pledge and work together to end harassment, hazing, and bulling in our industry.
Big gratitude to the Tradesworker Equity Council and all of the unsung heroes – tradesworkers themselves – who courageously show up each and every day to do this work, often in the face of bigotry, sexism, and racism. We proudly share the DJC’s Building Diversity Award honorees with all of you.
  • GeoEngineers
  • Todd Duwe, Perlo Construction
  • Meyer Memorial Trust headquarters project
  • Mel Jones, JE Dunn Construction
  • Román Hernández, Troutman Pepper
  • Kelly Kupcak, Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.
  • Wenaha Group
  • Portland Building reconstruction project
  • RKm Development
  • The Skanner (lifetime achievement award)
  • Center for Equity & Inclusion
  • Advanced Tribal LLC
  • Hacienda Community Development Corp.
  • Angela Watkins, Minority Construction Group and Constructing Hope
  • NAMC University
  • Safe from Hate initiative

Ending Unfair Practices

Thanks to OPB for illuminating some of the long-standing and problematic requirements creating unnecessary barriers for minority, disadvantaged, emerging, veteran, and women owned firms when competing for public contracts. These unfair practices continue to be an obstacle to equitable public contracting, and ultimately, a shared prosperity model.

Thank you to Maurice Rahming, president of O’Neill Electric, for the reminder that this is a decades old conversation – and it’s time to set proven, evidence-based policies in place which increase opportunities, access, and true economic inclusion for those firms.

In 2020, Portland awarded over $200 million for ‘goods and services’, yet businesses owned by people of color only received a tiny sliver of these annual public dollars expended by the city – ranging from a mere.8% to 3% over the last five years. These structural inequities are the reason Oregon Tradeswomen participates in industry coalitions such as the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity (MAWE) and other policy efforts – where together, we can make true changes for economic equity. Our collective advocacy work helps advance sound public policy, such as Community Benefits Agreements, to ensure public investments make a difference by reaching underserved workforce, including women, BIPOC, and minority-owned firms.

It’s time to invest in equity Portland!

Read the full story on OPB’s website.