Rosie the Riveter was well known in 1944 as she, along with Margie the Mechanic, Ellen the Electrician, and Paula the Pipe Fitter all worked side by side in the shipyards of America while their husbands, fathers, brothers and nephews went off to fight the war. So, the fact that women are capable of carpentry, plumbing, welding, electrical, sheetmetal and every other trade is a given. In 1946, after the war ended and all the men returned home, women returned to what they had nearly always done – they were once again mothers and wives keeping house for the family.
Through the years, mostly for economic reasons, American women have left the homefront again to earn a second income or, in many cases, to simply earn a living for themselves. Of course, these jobs were typically teaching, nursing, cooking, and secretarial or a few other skills that were commonly considered “women’s work”. Well, as the song lyric says, the times they are a changin'; women are once again proving they are capable of holding their own in “blue collar” jobs.
Joining me on air today to talk about some of the opportunities for women in the trades was Connie Ashbrook, Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc, http://www.tradeswomen.net. We learned that the core of the program is the Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC). This is a free, seven week, pre-apprenticeship training class that helps women prepare for a high skill, high wage career in construction.
During this 7 weeks of training, they learn basic trades math and measurement, recieve an introduction to green building, learn to use hand and power tools, and gain 30 hours of hands-on experience working alongside skilled female instructors on real job sites. Upon graduation, OTI career counselors assist the TACC graduates with their job search and application to apprenticeship training programs.
So, how would a young girl have any idea that she might want to work in the trades? OTI also offers a Building Girls Summer Camp. This day camp for middle and high school girls includes basic math and measurement, construction basics (such as measuring wood, using a skill saw, and hammering nails), tools use and safety, visits to construction sites, teamwork and project planning. The camp’s activities culminate in a cooperative building project, such as the construction of a tool shed, which is then donated to a community garden.
Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. has something going all the time to attract women to the trades. This will be the 21st year they have sponsored a Women in Trades Career Fair, they hit hot buttons like offering free green jobs construction training, and they encourage mentorship with events like their Dads & Daughters special workshop.
Yes, women make fine nurses, but so do men. Women can sew wonderful garments, and some of the most famous designers are men. And, as we learned during WWII, women can weld, wire, cut, and do anything else in the construction trades. So, let’s make sure we don’t forget that not all our children want to go to college. Many of them want to work with their hands as well as their heads. Many of them, including our daughters, wives, sisters and nieces just need to be shown that there really is an opportunity for them in the trades. We need to have them look at Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.