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When It Comes to Female Apprenticeship Numbers, Oregon is Blowing Other States Away

image via DJC Oregon

image via DJC Oregon

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In Oregon, outreach efforts to ensure women have apprenticeship opportunities were rewarded at a ceremony earlier this month, during which elected officials and union leaders touted the state’s leadership and celebrated the receipt of a $3 million federal grant to develop such programs. According to the numbers, Oregon has more than double the number of women in apprenticeships (6.9 percent) than the national average (3.2 percent) for states whose apprenticeship programs are managed directly by the federal government.

Oregon is surging in this area, but there is a long way to go nationally.  As Connie Ashbrook, Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen, told

In those federally managed states, nearly 75 percent of registered apprenticeship programs still do not have a single woman, while in Oregon the figure is 50 percent.

A breakdown of just how much work needs to be done can be found in a series of 2014 reports that detail the challenges facing women in the construction industry.  A brief breakdown of these reports appeared on

A 2014 report praised Oregon as one of two states making exemplary efforts to improve diversity in the highway construction trades, notably by dedicating a portion of its federal highway funding for training and support services for women and minorities. Having the state pay for such things as child care expenses, mileage, tools and clothing makes it more likely that women can continue their apprenticeships, the report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found.

In a separate 2014 report assessing the state’s efforts to develop a more diverse skilled workforce in the highway trades, PSU’s Kelly and two co-authors said “hostile and intolerant workplace environments are common” and a major impediment to the recruitment and retention of women and people of color.

Women apprentices who received financial support services completed their apprenticeships at nearly twice the rate of women who did not – 61 percent versus 31 percent – but childcare topped the list of challenges facing apprentices, with more than 75 percent saying it was a problem, the report said.

2015 has been a good year for apprenticeship. A historic level of resources were dedicated to expanding and developing training programs.  But the discrepancy between Oregon and elsewhere, and between industries, is evidence of the urgent need for investment in workforce development and education about the positive outcomes associated with alternatives to a traditional four-year degree. Maybe Hillary Clinton’s latest promise of “a new tax credit to encourage more high-quality apprenticeship programs” will do the trick.


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