A new article from Cville Weekly looks at women breaking into building trades in Central Virginia — and how CATEC is helping jumpstart their careers.
Nationwide, women represent only 3.4 percent of the construction trades workforce. And it’s not for lack of jobs. Construction in Virginia has rebounded, and many workers are nearing retirement age. More than 90 percent of construction firms report difficulty finding employees, and Virginia’s demand for trade workers will create almost 218,000 jobs between now and September 2020.
CATEC is one of the biggest players working to promote the trades in Charlottesville. CATEC serves nearly a dozen high schools in the region, and works in partnership with local community colleges and employers to offer workforce education programs for both high school students and adults.
CATEC Team Speaks to Girls’ Experiences?
Debbie Gannon, CATEC’s apprenticeship and adult programs coordinator, weighed in on girls’ experiences in CATEC’s building trades programs:
“For the construction trades specifically, girls may count themselves out because they think the jobs require massive muscle power. But nowadays, the trades are as technological as they are manual—and that includes the attention to detail and planning skills in which females, especially in high school, often outpace their male peers.
Besides that, Gannon says, “Sometimes the girls feel they have more to prove—and that makes them work harder and smarter.”
Attitudes can be hard to change even when a girl is attracted to skilled trades work, Shannon Tomlin, CATEC’s career coordinator for high schools, told Cville Weekly. Tomlin said she knows at least one student who was interested in masonry training and had to convince her parents to let her pursue it.
Getting More Girls to Think Trades
CATEC is doing a lot help get all kids thinking about trades as a career. Their efforts start in the local elementary schools. The school always includes women, by bringing tradeswomen from local employers along on CATEC’s school visits, or having girls already enrolled in the skilled trades classes present on CATEC tours.