OTI Alumnae Spotlight: Meet Lori Bauman!

Lori at the 2016 Women in Trades Career Fair

Forty five year old Lori Bauman is a brilliant tradeswomen, vegetarian, animal lover, gardener, and above all, a skilled story teller. She was born in the deserts of California and moved around a lot as a child, settling in Atlanta, GA for the bulk of her early adulthood. She remembers her time in Georgia fondly but also shared that living in the South as a Queer woman proved difficult at times. She also noted that Georgia was the last place she lived before making the decision to change her lifestyle and get sober.

Lori held a myriad of service industry jobs in her life and worked at a Starbucks as a barista for many years. In her quest for recovery, she transferred to Portland 8 years ago, where she got sober. While working at Starbucks, making $200 a week, Lori saw an ad for Oregon Tradeswomen and didn’t waste any time signing up. This day changed Lori’s life and began her lifelong love affair with supporting her fellow tradeswomen and diversifying the industry.

After graduating from OTI’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) at the age of 35, Lori planned to pursue a career with the Laborers Union and entered the Laborers Boot camp. Lori entered the boot camp with 22 of her peers and made it to graduation as one of only 6 women who finished. She was confident that her ability to complete the boot camp was a positive indicator that she could make it in the industry but she was unable to find work due to the slow times of the great recession.  As an alternative, Lori chose to enter an open shop sheet metal apprenticeship. During this time, Lori unfortunately endured unsafe working conditions and constant harassment and bullying from her male coworkers. On top of this, she felt pitted against her female peers on the job site as well, due to what she calls a survival tactic on the work site where women separate from each other in order to try and integrate into the male-dominant culture of the industry. Consequently, she felt very alone and was losing her drive to continue on in a field that was so hostile to women. She ended up getting laid off after about 6 months on the job and didn’t have any plans to return.

During this time Lori called Aida Aranda at the Laborers Union to ask if they had any work for her and was brought on as a Union Laborer Apprentice with a $6/hour pay raise. Her first job was on the Bonneville Dam, working almost entirely underground pouring concrete. Though her days often started at 4:00-5:00 in the morning and she was exhausted by the end of the work day, she noticed many differences from her previous job. Most importantly she felt much safer on the job site and was inducted into a different culture in which she was part of a family; though she still had to work very hard to prove herself on the job site to earn the respect she was given.  After this job was completed, Lori went on to work on many bridges in Oregon spanning from The Dalles to the Portland Metro Area. She journeyed out while working on the Oregon City Bridge in 2012. During her best year as a laborer, she brought home nearly $71,000 dollars.

Lori on the job at the Oregon City Bridge, where she worked for about 22 months and journeyed out! Photo credit: Dawn Jones Redstone

Throughout her career as a Tradeswoman Lori has remained a great friend and supporter of OTI and has worked hard to connect with and support other local tradeswomen. Her deeply held belief that one must “lift as they climb” has been integral in her life in order to support other tradeswomen. In her words it is imperative that “women must always believe their fellow tradeswomen, have their backs, and be there for one another”.

About three years ago, Aida Aranda contacted Lori and asked her to apply for her position, which she was leaving, as an Apprenticeship Coordinator for the Laborers Training Center. Lori reported that she knocked the interview out of the park. Although she didn’t get this position, this interview and her positive ties with many people in the community, she was invited to several more interviews before landing her current position as a Field Representative for Liuna Local No. 737.In her role, she spends her days driving to various job sites to ensure that union contracts are being upheld, provides conflict mediation when necessary, and acts as an advocate for the workers on site. Lori works in a very inclusive office where she feels her voice is heard and respected and she loves the freedom her job affords. She also believes that she is in a position where she can help create tangible change in the culture of the union that she was unable to do working on the front lines as a laborer. Not only does Lori love her new job, but it also pays leaps and bounds higher than her highest pre-trades industry wage of $9/hour. She feels incredibly happy to have a sense of financial security higher than she ever imagined she would have without a college degree.

When asked what advice she has for future tradeswomen, Lori replied “Be sure that it’s what you want and then go hard and fast at it”.  As for her future career plans, Lori wants to be the best at what she does as a Union Field Representative. She also wants to lead social change within and between unions and someday she would love to step into a leadership role within the union. She states that positive culture shifts are already happening within the leadership of the union and she hopes to help trickle these changes down to all members, so that everyone in the industry feels they are respected and safe on the job site no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.

For Lori, her recovery from drug and alcohol abuse and being a tradeswoman are her two most passionately held identities. They give her a sense of a higher purpose and she spends as much time as she can giving back to fellow tradeswomen and people seeking their own recovery.

We are so excited to announce that Lori has recently accepted a seat on OTI’s Board of Directors! She states that she feels very lucky and honored to be invited to hold a seat on the board and intends to keep the seat warm for as long as she is able. We at OTI have no doubt that Lori will be a force to be reckoned with in the industry and we are incredibly proud that she started her journey with us!







OTI Alumnae Spotlight: Meet Vanessa Enos!

Vanessa Enos is both an accomplished artist and journey level tradeswoman! She grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in NE Oregon and went to high school there, and after graduation, attended Blue Mountain Community College on a basketball scholarship. After a year in community college, Vanessa decided to move to Philadelphia, PA to attend Moore College of Art and Design to focus on illustration. While she loved art school, Vanessa made the decision to leave after her first year but, continued to live and work in the city for another four years. This was an important time in Vanessa’s life where she was discovering her strengths and passions, and realizing she didn’t want to stay in the retail and service industry jobs that kept her in the stressful cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.

After being on her own for five years, Vanessa moved back to the reservation to work as a Head Start teacher while also serving as a Wildland Firefighter for four seasons during her summers. Vanessa was drawn to this work because it was a passion of a close family friend who passed away and she wanted first hand experience of the work he loved so much. She candidly recalls how hard the training was and how many people doubted that she would make it due to being a woman and her small stature. But, with her now legendary grit and determination, Vanessa passed the test and proved herself as a Wildland Firefighter.

After her fourth summer of Wildland Firefighting, Vanessa craved a change of focus in her life as she was slipping into a hard-partying lifestyle that no longer served her. She moved to Portland to attend treatment at NARA Rehabilitation Center and found under the table construction work that helped her get back on her feet. Years before her move to Portland, Vanessa had received a call from her friend Feather Sams-Huesties, who frequently did career outreach for women and was a professional contact of Connie Ashbrook, OTI Executive Director. Feather told Vanessa about OTI’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) and about what a great fit she would be for the program. Vanessa remembered this conversation and reached back out to Feather once she was settled in Portland to learn more about OTI and how she could get started.

When she is asked by people “why the laborers union?” Vanessa confidently replies, “If you want to be great you’ve got to start at the bottom”.

With encouragement from Feather, Vanessa enrolled in OTI’s Spring 2014 TACC class when she was 32 years old and was accepted into a laborers apprenticeship program before she even finished the program. When she is asked by people “why the laborers union?” Vanessa confidently replies, “If you want to be great you’ve got to start at the bottom”. She loves her trade for the variety of skills she is able to learn and the fast paced atmosphere that has allowed her to become a “jill of all trades”.

Today, three years after finishing OTI’s TACC program, Vanessa is a Journeyman Laborer with a soft spot for concrete. She candidly explains, “not many females do it (concrete work), but I love it!” Currently she’s working as the Vibrator Hand for Howard S. Wright on the old Grove Hotel Building in China Town, making $28.77 an hour. She is getting to do exactly what she hoped to be doing, which is climbing the columns and pouring the walls of the structures she works on. But, she had to work hard to get to this place.

In her past job, Vanessa noticed she was being passed over for more skilled roles on the job site, leaving her stuck with mucking concrete even after journeying out. She asked her foreman why she wasn’t able to do what the new guys were doing and if it had anything to do with the fact that she was a woman. One of her coworkers chimed in, stating, “Vanessa, we’re all thinking it but we can’t say it. Yes, it’s because you’re a girl”. This is not something that Vanessa was willing to accept and she advocated for herself to ensure she was learning the skills she needed to be successful in her field. Unfortunately, Vanessa was slowly being transitioned to cleaning crews and pulled from more and more skilled tasks on the job site.

“No matter how hard you try to prove yourself in the trades, when you want to do something you typically get a million excuses why you can’t. It’s called pigeon holing; they never let you go to your full potential”.

This can be a common experience for women in the trades, but luckily not all companies function this way. Vanessa called up her old supervisor at Howard S. Wright and let him know she wasn’t happy in her current job and laid out the terms of what she would need to switch to a different company. He enthusiastically accepted and Vanessa felt really empowered to have left a job that wasn’t offering her the opportunities she was seeking and successfully advocate for a job that would build her skill set.

While Vanessa loves her career, she finds that sexual harassment on the job site is still extremely prevalent, “there’s all sorts of harassment out there, it’s just about you setting firm boundaries and nipping it in the bud”. She notes that dealing with issues of harassment in such a direct way can be hard for new apprentices, but at the end of the day, it’s important to let your coworkers know that “I’m not here for your entertainment or for your pleasure. I’m not here for eye candy”. Apprentices are there to work and learn skills so they can advance and earn a living just like all the other workers.

When you ask Vanessa about her goals for the future she excitedly answers, “the sky’s the limit!” She would like to work her way through the ranks to become a foreman, noting that her union has a lot of plans for her and the leadership she has the aptitude to grow into. She would also like to work as a recruiter to get more women into the trades; especially focusing on outreach to Native American women on reservations.

While Vanessa is a bad-ass tradeswoman by day, she is also a talented artist with a piece of work in the Smithsonian! She wants to further nourish her passion for art and to continue to leave her mark on the world as an artist through her favored mediums of print-making and oil painting, while also advancing her trades and career building skills. We agree that the sky is the limit for Vanessa and we are excited to see all that she is bound to accomplish. Check out Vanessa in our Intro to Apprenticeship Video!

Meet AJ Banuelos, Laborer

AJ Banuelos, Laborer

AJ Banuelos, Laborer

AJ Banuelos is a woman on a mission: She is determined to succeed both as a worker and as a mother, and is forth-coming on both topics. She laid out her life plan while tending her two sons one sunny May afternoon.

Growing up along the West Coast, from Seattle to Southern California, AJ finally settled in Portland. She graduated from high school and took some college courses, despite having her first child, a special-needs daughter, at age 18. Her early career involved office and clerical work, but AJ descends from a long line of union-oriented construction workers, “Construction chose me,” she says. She soon recognized that union construction work pays from 2 to 3 times more than clerical. She had gotten as far as certifying and working as a flagger – hazardous work – before she began training at Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. in January 2011, subsequently achieving union apprenticeship.

AJ took up the family trade but with a twist. Everyone else in the family entered building construction; AJ is a member of Laborer’s International Union of North America, Local 320-Roadway and Highway. She moves earth on rail crews, grading and elevating rail. Why? “Because roads and bridges nearly always need repair and building, whereas building construction stops and starts.” The only downside she sees is weather. Despite the fact that AJ is not working currently she has a positive view both of the path she’s chosen and of her future.

Of her decision to apply to OTI and the outcome, she can summarize it in one word: “Awesome!” Her class of 42 was record-sized. The women both challenged and assisted each other and many of them still communicate. AJ continues to volunteer with OTI because she likes the idea of women helping women.

AJ is rightly proud of what she’s learned on the job: Her favorite story from the rail crew shows a lot of ambition. She said she noticed that the foreman would be holding tools, so she would say to him, “you shouldn’t be doing the work.” Then he would teach her how to use that tool. She gained a lot of training through observation. Nonetheless, her proudest work-related accomplishment is becoming a union member.

Family life sounds hectic but organized. On work days she gets herself and the kids ready to go, takes them to school/care and herself to work, always 20 minutes early. Her shift was 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. After work she picks them all up for scouts, football, church, union meetings, and OTI meetings, depending on the night. She is very particular about her children’s activities and television viewing habits, making decisions that will help them grow in mind and body.

She looks to the future: AJ hopes to become a union delegate and attend regional and national conferences. To those who scoff at the idea of women in trades she says, “You haven’t met US!” To other women she advises, “Consider all options; don’t rule out anything.”

AJ’s two year old gets fussy and she scoops him up and pops a berry she’s prepared into his mouth, never missing a beat. “I want my children to be happy and successful,” she says, “to do what their hearts desire and to be satisfied with their decisions.” They surely will be if they follow their mother’s advice: Know the difference between need and want. Don’t want what you can’t have; don’t do something just because you want to; don’t go anywhere just because you want to. Be happy with what you get by working for your goals. Sounds like a recipe for success.