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Louisiana, West Virginia Tout Programs to Expands Ranks of Women in the Building Trades

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As the construction trades look to expand their ranks, several programs are helping women take on the challenges that comes with entering a male dominated industry. The workforce is aging, but apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs are training the next generation while diversifying the workforce of new entrants.  

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a training program is helping women develop the necessary skills to take advantage of the upcoming economic boom.  Women in Welding, at Baton Rouge Community College, enables industry certification.  The 120-hour program was partially funded by a $46,400 grant from the Dow Foundation and gives students additional “booth time” to practice their craft.  Participants can also take advantage of services that will help them prepare for interviews and help them find a balance between work and home.  

As Tom Bradley, the global reliability and maintenance director for the performance plastics division at Dow, told the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report:

We are going to be looking for 86,000 skilled craftsmen along the Gulf Coast, and we don’t have that coming in the pipeline right now.  We have to utilize the workforce. It is a Rosie the Riveter type of situation. We don’t have all the people here to do the work, so we have to train somebody else.”

Welders are not only in demand on the Gulf Coast.  Across the country companies are looking for new ways to meet future demand, Business Report writes:

According to the American Welding Society, the average American welder is 54 years old; about 45% of the workforce is age 50 or older. Projections call for 111,000 new welders nationally in the next five years just to replace those retiring from the profession.

“We are going to need everyone that is available,” says Amanda Stanley, director of skilled crafts initiatives at Baton Rouge Community College.

In West Virginia, West Virginia Women Work is achieving similar goals. The program was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor for its accomplishments.  The group’s Step Up for Women program has been helping women prepare for construction apprenticeship:

The hands-on portion of Step Up for Women includes experience with wiring, plumbing and carpentry. The students learn how to use power tools and actually build a small utility building from scratch in the parking lot.

The program also incorporates a women’s resource class in which the participants are sent to the gym to do some body building and gain stamina, because they are seeking training in jobs that are very physical, Gunel said. The students also review their math skills and learn how to write a skilled trades resume, do an interview, and search for work.

In addition, the students are introduced to women — former graduates of the program — who are already working in the skilled trades. Those individuals can serve as a great resource for the current students, she said.


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