Oregon Tradeswomen is a Portland-based non-profit organization, but it has been our goal to expand our pre-apprenticeship training and services across the state of Oregon. This year, we got closer to that goal! We worked with the Oregon Laborers Training and Apprenticeship, with funding through our contract with the State Apprenticeship Expansion Grant, to pilot a rural training program to recruit more women and non-binary folks into the Construction Craft Laborer trade!
Like Oregon Tradeswomen’s primary 8-week Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC), the Laborer’s Rural TACC is a 192 hour BOLI-Certified pre-apprenticeship, but was condensed into 5-weeks with a focus on the Laborer trade. Pre-apprentices spent the first few weeks building a foundation of skills through tool assessments, fitness conditioning, and construction math. Then, in Week Three, the Oregon Laborers led a Laborer’s boot camp where class participants applied their new construction skills on hands-on projects such as framing then deconstructing an 8′ x 8′ wall.
Hands-on training continued through the end of the program with students working on projects like building benches for the Warm Springs Reservation assisted living facility: the High Lookee Lodge! With several participants belonging to the Warm Springs community, there was a profound sense of pride in using their new skills to give back. In fact, one participant shared that her goal in pursuing a career in the trades was not only to provide for her children and two teenage siblings, but to bring her expertise back to Warm Springs and make much needed improvements to the infrastructure there.
By the end of the 5-week program, all participants graduated, not only as BOLI-certified pre-apprentices, but with OSHA 10, CPR, First Aid, and Forklift Certifications. A certification in Green Construction is also available to interested graduates through a two-day training with our partners at Earth Advantage. The most unique element of this training is that program graduates are offered direct entry to the Oregon Laborer’s Apprenticeship program as well as immediate employment to bridge the gap between graduation and starting Apprenticeship.
When reflecting on the past 5 weeks, Oregon Tradeswomen Training Coordinators Carol Murray and Kate Hibbs expressed their pride in the achievements of each graduate. “Seeing pre-apprentices find out that they are good at something on the first try is just so rewarding,” Kate shared. “Those little successes build on each other and create confidence for everything that follows.” Carol was particularly inspired by the level of camaraderie fostered among the students. “They’re helping one another, they’ve got each other’s backs, they’re checking in if someone is late,” she explains. “The way they connect with one another before they go out into the field is vital.”
We weren’t the only ones impressed with the Redmond pre-apprentices! This cohort had a few very special visitors join them throughout the 5 weeks. First, Oregon Governor hopeful, Tina Kotek, stopped by to learn more about the importance of pre-apprenticeship and how programs like TACC break down barriers for women to enter and be successful in the skilled construction trades. Then, we had Robert Camarillo, Wayne Chow, and John Mohlis of the Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council stop by to say hello to our training team and see the trainees in action! It is always a treat to have such influential visitors come to see the great work being done by our pre-apprentices.
Not only are our pre-apprentices developing valuable job skills for a bright future, but Redmond graduate Sage Flowers was given an incredible opportunity to tell her story at the Democratic Party of Oregon Summit. At the Summit, Sage joined a panel about growing Oregon’s economy through infrastructure investment, partnerships, and registered apprenticeships where she spoke from personal experience about how policy efforts to expand training and apprenticeship opportunities directly impact the lives of women in her community. Rural communities often lack access to career exploration and training programs that lead to family-supporting wages. Through this partnership between Oregon Tradeswomen and the Oregon Laborer’s Training and Apprenticeship, we are working to bring more career education and trainings to the communities that need them. With proper funding and policy, training opportunities for rural communities can expand further across the state.
Now that our Redmond pre-apprentices have graduated, we know they have bright futures in the trades. These 6 hard workers gave their all to commit their time and energy to complete our 192-hour program in just 5 weeks! We have so much gratitude for UA Local 290 for hosting us in their training facility, the Oregon Laborer’s Training and Apprenticeship for partnering to deliver this training, as well as COIC Worksource and East Cascade Works for providing supportive services (and a fantastic video about our training!). Additionally, we thank the Warm Springs Tribal Employment Rights Office for recruiting community members for this training. Special thanks to our friends Dave Burger, UA Local 290, and Taunia Blakely, IBEW Local 280, who were key in this project coming together.
It really does take a village to change lives and we are so proud of this community for stepping up to the plate to help make this rural training a success. We cannot wait to get back to Central Oregon and help more women get on the path to a fulfilling career in the trades!