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.
Oregon Tradeswomen is grateful to COAST for their support!
With Oregon Tradeswomen’s first Pre-Apprenticeship cohort of 2021 graduating this April, COAST generously provided each graduate with a COAST gift pack of gear that will prove useful as they embark on their brand new skilled trades careers!
Beyond these graduation gifts, COAST is running a special promotion for Oregon Tradeswomen supporters, giving 20% off to their online catalog to anyone who uses code OT20 at checkout!
When we asked why COAST is supporting Oregon Tradeswomen, Marshall Alexander, Live Events and Partnership Manager at COAST, shared:
“We view trades organizations as essential to the growth, development, and advancement of the country, and no one embodies this more than Oregon Tradeswomen. Their commitment to the values of respect, excellence, equity, community, and empowerment, made this an obvious partnership for us to help them achieve their goals. We look forward to growing this partnership well into the future.”
For more than 100 years, COAST has had one goal: Make the American worker’s life safer and easier, both on the job and at home. The third generation of the Brands family continues this mindset with innovative lighting and cutting tools, as well as safety gear, and more. COAST Products continues to push the standard higher into the next generation.
Thanks again to COAST for being there for our students as they take their next steps to apprenticeship and their careers in construction!
Oregon Tradeswomen is committed to providing quality Pre-Apprenticeship training, but sometimes we need a little help from our community to make sure our students have the tools and gear they need to have a well-rounded trades education!
Whether you have some used items gathering dust in your garage or feel inspired to donate new equipment, Oregon Tradeswomen welcomes your help.
At this moment, our biggest needs are:
- New computers to run AutoCAD. Autodesk came through for us in a big way by donating AutoCAD software to improve our teaching! Now, we need help securing compatible computers capable of running this powerful program.
- At least 8 Milwaukee Tool, 18 Volt Lithium-Ion Power Tool batteries. Last year when COVID required us to teach without the sharing of tools – Milwaukee Tool donated enough for each student to have their own workstation.
Can you help us keep students working? Other items on our wish-list:
- 25’ 12 and 14 gauge extension cords
- Shop clamps of various sizes
- Klein wire strippers (45-120 T5 10-18 AWG)
- Milwaukee Tools Jigsaw (2781-20 – 5″ w/ slide lock bare tool)
- 24″ computer monitors
Thank you SO much for making a difference in a woman’s life!
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
“We admire the ability of Oregon Tradeswomen to do outreach and offer training that helps people be work ready in such a short time. We want to make sure everyone who needs more workers knows about this incredible resource and help them train even more construction workers!”
~ HoneyPot Fund donors
Oregon Tradeswomen is truly lucky to have such tremendous support across our industry and community to live our mission and work in supporting women into skilled trades careers and economic self-sufficiency.
Two such donors, who wish to remain anonymous, created the “HoneyPot Fund” to support our Pathways to Success program and general operation support for our expansion to Rockwood. These incredible donors are challenging others to step up to fund our apprenticeship readiness program and help ensure more women have good careers with good wages and benefits to support themselves and their families.
What’s the Challenge?
The HoneyPot Fund is offering $10,000 to match any $10,000 donation to Oregon Tradeswomen!
ATTN: HoneyPot Fund
454 SE 187th Avenue
Portland OR 97233
How Can I Support the Challenge?
Are you ready to put your wallet behind your conviction to a diverse, skilled, and equitable workforce? We knew you’d say YES! Donate today and challenge others in our industry and community!
How will my donation help?
Your generous contribution will be matched by the HoneyPot Fund to help support Oregon Tradeswomen’s continued growth, our move to Rockwood, and allow us to support more women securing their economic future through and help meet industry demand for a skilled and diverse workforce!
Thank you for your support and stepping up to the HoneyPot Industry Challenge!
With gratitude & love,
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.”
Huffing and puffing along, a 7,000 foot freight train curves gracefully around the Columbia River Gorge. Jessica Hassler, locomotive engineer extraordinaire with BNSF Railway, looks out the side-view mirror of the cab at the 16,000 tons she has been vigilantly guiding for hundreds of miles. She feels pride welling up inside her as she safely and smoothly handles the power of this great machine.
Jessica has been a Locomotive Engineer for 7 years now and has been with the railroad as a whole for 10 years. Before her foray into the world of locomotives, Jessica was a creative ‘jack-of-all-trades’. Armed with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Illustration, she supported herself by doing freelance work. She was contracted by advertisers and restaurants to draw for them, but the work wasn’t conducive to ensuring a stable future; the market for creatives in Portland was, and continues to be, saturated. Jessica also opened up her own food truck, but after 3 years, decided that being an entrepreneur was not for her if she wanted to have job-security, health insurance, and to one day own a home.
She heard from a friend that BNSF Railway was looking for switchmen and conductors and that the work was well compensated and Union protected. In 2008, she took a chance and applied to BNSF Railway. She was hired as a switchman/conductor and worked for 6 months before getting furloughed. The furlough, while incredibly inconvenient, was a perfect segue into Oregon Tradeswomen’s Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC).
Jessica was at a loss as what to do until someone pointed her in the direction of Oregon Tradeswomen. Growing up in North Dakota, Jessica never considered the skilled trades or blue-collar work an option, as it was mostly men who filled those jobs, but going through Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship training program, a whole new world opened up for her. During the summer of 2009 when Jessica was enrolled in TACC, she developed an interest in becoming a lineman with Bonneville Power Administration. One of the most valuable things she experienced during Oregon Tradeswomen’s class was the opportunity to learn math in a way that made sense to her. Jessica never saw math and numbers as things that came easily to her, but in TACC, math was broken down in a way that she could access. TACC was also a supportive environment where she felt like she could ask as many questions as she needed about anything.
Soon after graduation from TACC, BNSF ended Jessica’s furlough and she decided to go back and work as a switchman. Even though she didn’t go on to pursue the electrical trade, Jessica reflects on her time in the TACC program fondly, saying that: “Oregon Tradeswomen picked me up when I didn’t know what to do. It helped me realize that even if the railroad didn’t work out, there were other options in store for me.”
And so, it was “Take Two” for Jessica. Hired on as a switchman, she switched cars, serviced local industries, and built trains for departure to their next destinations. Working on the railroad can be a very challenging job. While not for everyone, it is a place for someone who thrives on variety. You are on the railroad’s whim as you are on-call 24/7 and Jessica says that it is up to you to make the best of worst of it. Jessica made the best of it and after three years working on the ground, she took the promotion to become a Locomotive Engineer.
Throughout her time at BNSF Railway, the men that she worked with were nothing but welcoming and genuinely thrilled to have a woman join the crew. When she just got hired on, she was fearful of harassment or hazing, but instead she felt respected by the men who were all so generous to teach and share their tips and tricks. The men on her crew understood that she was their teammate and that if she succeeds, they succeed. Jessica calls them the family of men she never expected to have. There is irony in how Jessica found support, success, and a sense of equality at the railroad, a place people don’t expect women to work. BNSF does have a very strict harassment policy, but Jessica recounts that in her case, the culture has been so positive that it never needed to be enforced. Even ten years ago things were much harder for women on the railroad, but since then, the culture has evolved for the better.
To the women who are curious about joining BNSF, Jessica Hassler says, “Just do it! Be open and be brave. Drop the attitude and the ego and go into it knowing nothing with nothing to prove. Believe you can do it and allow yourself to learn it.”
10 years with BNSF Railway has flown by for Jessica and she has all that she once dreamed of: a rewarding job that offers great benefits, belonging to thee BLET Union, owning a home, owning a car, and she has the economic stability she always dreamed about. She even met her life partner through her job with BNSF.
So what does the future look like? Jessica can see herself sticking with it for another 20 years followed by happy retirement. As long as she can sustain the lifestyle, there is no reason not to go all the way to retirement.
Life may not always end up how you thought it would, but sometimes the reality you end up with is even better than anything you could have imagined. It is important to take things in stride and keep your options open. Who knows, you might discover something life-changing like Jessica did!
Oregon Tradeswomen works to increase the number of women and people of color entering the skilled trades, but there are still significant barriers that make recruitment and retention of a challenge. A Workforce Market Study was jointly commissioned in January 2017 by The City of Portland and Metro, (Oregon regional governance and the only one in the nation), with the support of Oregon Tradeswomen, the National Association of Minority Contractors of Oregon (NAMCO), Oregon Employment Department (OED), Portland State University (PSU), and Worksystems Inc. to learn more about how to invest in equitable growth through diversifying our workforce.
Why should we care about diversifying our workforce? The new report states, “Diversifying the construction workforce will not only help create a stronger supply of needed workers for the industry, it will also directly address issues of poverty and economic mobility within communities of color and working families in the region.” The construction industry is also in the midst of a labor shortage. Ideally, we can prepare women and minorities to be those ideal candidates to help fill the labor gap. It isn’t as easy as it seems, though, as the study identifies barriers that make recruitment and retention of these demographics a challenge.
The study outlined 9 main barriers that hinder recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the trades. Many trades jobs come from personal referral, say from a father or friend who is already in the industry. The study shows that women and minorities have less of these gateway experiences. This goes hand in hand with the fact that there are not many communities or social networks within the industry for women and people of color which minimizes the exposure someone from those communities might have to the trades. It was also found that marginalized communities face more hardships than others due to financial issues, child care, transportation, among other things that can stand in the way of them continuing their careers.
Although Oregon Tradeswomen does great work preparing women to join the construction workforce and gives them support throughout their careers, however, there are limits to our capacity to train students, primarily due to structural limitations as to when we can conduct training and offer hands-on experiences to build skills. More than 1,100 women seek our pre-apprenticeship training each year. The problem isn’t that women aren’t interested in a career in construction, but rather, we have a limited number of slots in each cohort. This is a common barrier among pre-apprenticeship and job-readiness programs.
Some of the other barriers that keep women and people of color from continuing a career in the trades are the outdated policies that shape noninclusive jobsite cultures where women and people of color experience sexist and racist attitudes. These policies can foster hostile work environments, poor-quality training for new workers (which then makes it harder for those workers to excel and advance), and fewer opportunities for promotion for women and people of color.
As a way to address the disparity in our region, the study outlined three goals:
- Increase recruitment of diverse workers
- Increase retention of diverse workers
- Develop more robust equity policy and practices
Each of the goals are broken down into action items such as “Ensure steady funding streams to increase capacity of pre-apprenticeship programs,” “Address construction job site culture through respectful workplace trainings with proven results,” and “Enforce contract goals with consequences of non-compliance.”
While there is much work to be done, this study clearly marks a path that we as a community, and hopefully one day as a country, can work towards. There are countless women and people of color who are willing and able to do good work in the construction industry and help fill the labor shortage, but it is the industry as a whole that needs to step up to properly set these workers up for success.
In January, our Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) had the opportunity to take a field trip to Hampton Lumber and tour their distribution center on SE Front St. here in Portland. TACC students got to have an inside look at what a day in Hampton Lumber’s transfer station is like. We saw the process as the workers cut the lumber to various sizes, package the lumber, and then load it on the rail cars. Students also talked with the staff about entry level work and the various jobs that are available at Hampton Lumber.
Founded in 1950, Hampton Lumber is privately owned by the Hampton Family with its headquarters here in Portland, Oregon. They own and operate 9 sawmills in Oregon, Washington, and even British Columbia. Hampton is deeply invested in each of the communities where they employ workers.
In each community, Hampton Lumber prioritizes affordable housing, youth and education, and the arts. They support organizations and causes by donating time and lumber to Habitat for Humanity, advocating for the arts in urban and rural communities, donating to the Oregon Food Bank and Adopt-a-Family, and working closely with local schools and colleges to not only provide workforce training opportunities, but create and maintain important relationships with the communities’ youth.
In addition to being patrons of their community, Hampton Lumber is an exceptional place of employment. Their employees are excited about the work they do and look forward to coming to their jobs every day. This enthusiasm creates a positive work environment that encourages worker retention. Because they care about their employees, Hampton Lumber provides many opportunities for education through training and apprenticeship.
Hampton Lumber is also dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the lumber industry and in the skilled trades in general. Hampton promotes a supportive workplace environment for everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin, protected veteran status, or disability.
Those interested in finding out more about Hampton Lumber are highly encouraged to reach out and give them a call. The folks at Hampton Lumber are truly friendly and are more than willing to answer all of your questions as well as possibly show you around their facilities. Make that first move and come in to experience what Hampton Lumber is all about.
Don’t forget to check them out on Facebook!