Is the future of construction female?
Job fairs and apprenticeships are nothing new, but increasingly construction firms are hosting hands-on learning programs to showcase the industry and its career potential to young people — especially girls.
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With the cost of a college education only going up, the unemployment rate at record lows and not enough skilled laborers to fill open positions, the construction industry is working overtime to recruit the next generation of tradesmen and women.
That recruitment is increasingly starting earlier and earlier, and with an added emphasis on showcasing the profession to young girls who in the past might never have considered a career in construction.
The efforts are highlighted by two local efforts to put the construction profession on display for area boys and girls who could be the next faces of the trades.
Coming up on Friday, Aug. 10, Miron Construction will host Build Like a Girl at 8215 Greenway Blvd., Suite 100, in Middleton from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., which will allow a full class of seventh to 10th grade girls to learn the tricks of the construction trade. This is the third year for the Build Like a Girl event and the first year the program will come to the Madison area.
Build Like a Girl, previously only held in Neenah, will make its Madison debut in August.
According to the National Association of Women in Construction, as of 2015, women made up just 1.3% of the entire U.S. construction workforce. Here in the Badger State, “women make up an estimated 5% of Wisconsin’s workforce in construction and the skilled trades,” according to Wisconsin Public Radio. That’s a rich source of potential workers the construction industry sees as a lifeline to its future.
“We actually see the shortage of women in the construction workforce as an opportunity,” notes Dave Walsh, Miron Construction’s vice president of human resources. “It’s an untapped market for us in terms of recruitment. We think a job in construction is perfect for women, especially those born and raised in Wisconsin. Women raised in our state are hard working, not afraid of the climate, and they already spend time outdoors hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and more; we think it makes perfect sense to recruit women to work outdoors, as well.”
According to Walsh, events like Build a Girl provide young women with the opportunity to try out hands-on activities related to the field of construction. Miron also has women currently working in the construction field speak to the girls about their jobs in the industry and answer any questions they may have. “Our program lets the girls see for themselves what they could expect from a career in construction,” he notes.
That’s a sentiment echoed by Amanda Byrd, senior marketing and communications specialist for Findorff.
Findorff held its first Construction Camp for area youth in early June. Photo credit: Nancy Mayek, Findorff
“As we consider women, Findorff makes a point to showcase the industry not only as an area for opportunity, but also a place where they belong,” explains Byrd. “We build awareness by using our female staff as examples of what young women can aspire to be in their future careers. In the case of our first Construction Camp, women working in departments such as accounting, marketing, and project management presented at, and attended, the events planned for students. We have even had several women from our office present to younger children in schools about what they do in the construction industry.”
Byrd says Findorff also makes a point to recognize Women in Construction Week. The annual event highlights the growing role women play in the industry and brings awareness to the evolving opportunities available for women. This year, Findorff recognized several of its own women employees and what is involved with each of their jobs, ranging from yard operations to managing building systems, information it shared through the company’s e-communications, social media, and website.
“If you look at Miron’s approximately 1,200 field employees, only about three to four are women,” notes Walsh. “Those numbers are not unique to our company either. On any given construction site, you will typically only see a handful of women at work, if you see one at all. This is why it’s so important to us to get women of all ages interested in careers in the trades.”
Byrd says that’s about the same for Findorff. The percentage of female workers employed by Findorff can vary depending on the area of work. Specifically, the percentage of women in the field is 1%, while in the office it is 33.9%. Overall, the percentage of women employed by Findorff is 9.1%, which hovers around the national average of 9.3%, according to Engineering News Record.