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National Center Helps Stakeholders Grow Construction Workforce with Resources for Strengthening Participation of Women in Apprenticeship

Working simultaneously with unions, contractors, women, and students, the  National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment is helping the construction industry grow the skilled workforce it needs by incorporating and retaining more women. One way the center is doing this is by bringing registered apprenticeship to bear as a proven strategy to grow and retain talent, according to Jayne Vellinga, Executive Director of Chicago Women in Trades, the parent organization of the center.

By providing evidence-based strategies and practical applications, the center supports employers in their efforts to build and implement apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs and then provides ongoing support to ensure that more women successfully complete their apprenticeships and launch long-term careers in their trade.

Midwest stakeholders including registered apprenticeship sponsors, training providers, and workforce development professionals can benefit first hand from the center’s expertise by participating in the upcoming Building Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment: An Institute for Practitioners and Employers, which will be held Friday, October 13, 2017 before the start of the Women Build Nations conference in Chicago.

The multi-pronged approach taken by the center is a reflection of several factors influencing the availability of skilled laborers today.

“If I’m a contractor, I want to find some women that I’m going to cultivate and treat like an integral part of my workforce so when I bid on a project that has a female hiring goal, I already have a great skilled person that I know produces for me,” said Vellinga.

Bringing women into these careers is good for the employers but it’s also an issue of equity, according to Vellinga. In construction jobs, which have been traditionally held by male workers, a new employee with a high school diploma and no work experience will enter the field at nearly $20 per hour. In five years, that person could earn nearly $50 per hour. By contrast, roles with similar educational requirements in traditionally female jobs, such as Nurse’s Assistant, will enter the workforce at around $12 per hour and only increase their earning potential by a few dollars in five years.

A couple of years ago, the center received a Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to set up a technical assistance center for the Midwest. The center was one of three grantees spanning the county. With this grant, the center has begun to expand their reach and bring technical assistance across the region.

The center works with their national partners, primarily unions, to develop technical assistance plans, provide training, help decipher regulations, and develop best practices and case studies. They provide employers assistance on issues as varied as recruitment and retention to domestic violence.

“It’s also about career choice,” explains Vellinga. “Not every woman is a nurturer. Not every woman without a college degree wants to work with children or old people or be a waitress. Women have wide range of interests whether they’ve had an opportunity to go to college or not. It’s important to have that level of career choice and the earning power that goes with jobs that have been traditionally male.”

In 2016, the center received an additional grant from the Department of Labor targeting equity partners. The center was named the lead agency for a consortium of 10 organizations around the country. This consortium includes virtually every funded tradeswoman organization in the country and works with the national Registered Apprenticeship program. The consortium assists apprenticeship program sponsors with their equal employment opportunity planning. They provide tools, guidance, technical assistance, training, and other services in support of building equity for women in apprenticeship. Today, women make up only 15% of all apprenticeships, and in the construction field, the numbers are much worse at just 3% nationwide.

An improving economy and projected workforce shortages are helping to spur momentum for women in trades. Vellinga also points out that certain incentive programs work exceptionally well to motivate positive hiring practices. The Illinois Tollway system, for example, offers earned credit to contractors who bid on construction projects for each woman or minority that is hired. What makes this program especially beneficial is that it also awards credit for retaining these employees. “So, if you’ve done a good job with your workforce, you don’t necessarily have to be the lowest bidder to be successful in getting a contract,” said Vellinga. “What I like about this system is that it rewards you for what you’ve done, not just what you say you’re going to do.”

In her 17 years at Chicago Women in Trades, Vellinga has seen significant improvement in the work environment for women in construction. As an example, she tells about one of the plumber’s unions she works with in the Chicago area. Just four years ago, this group had just two women in their apprenticeship program. However, with a change in mindset among the union’s leadership, they started bringing more women into the program. Today, they have 32 women in their apprenticeship program and are also supporting a robust mentorship program.

“Last year, for the first time in this local’s history, they sent women as delegates to the union association convention. And not just one woman, but three,” said Vellinga.  “These numbers are going to make the difference. You can’t ignore, refuse to train or create an untenable work environment for an important percentage of your workforce.”

For more information on the center or on the Women Build Nations conference, contact Jayne Vellinga by email at jvellinga@cwit2.org.

Designed for Generation Z, Online Pre-Apprenticeship Offers Wisconsin Students a Fast Track to High-Demand Careers

In recognition of the importance of workforce issues to Wisconsin’s contractors, Wisconsin Operating Engineers partnered with Destinations Career Academy to develop the Operating Engineers Pre-Apprenticeship Program. This program prepares students for registered apprenticeship while still in high school. Hosted through the McFarland School district in south-central Wisconsin, this program is available through course options to students throughout the state.

Michigan Construction Workforce Campaign Sets Foundation

One year ago, MichiganConstruction.com was launched to promote the construction industry. Started and funded by construction employers, Michigan’s premiere construction branding campaign has generated over 34-million media impressions delivered to television broadcast media markets and social media platforms throughout Michigan.

“Our focus is on Michigan’s construction industry,” says Dan DeGraaf, CEO of the Michigan Concrete Association who spearheads the MichiganConstruction campaign. He sees that the only way for the construction industry to compete for the best-and-brightest, is to unify in an effort to show people how cool it is to work in construction.

MichiganConstruction­­ produced three TV commercials that does just that.  The latest shows how kids can go from video gaming directly to construction.

Heather Smith, Marketing Director of the MichiganConstruction campaign says, “The trick is capturing interest generated from the ads and connecting those job seekers with our construction employers.”  This campaign drives and captures interest with cutting edge inbound digital marketing tools utilizing branded web-based and social media technology.

The MichiganConstruction campaign paved the way for the creation of the Michigan Construction Foundation.

Formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Construction Foundation seeks to promote a positive image for Michigan’s construction industry to attract, recruit, educate, train and support new workers.

Brindley Byrd now serves as Executive Director of the Michigan Construction Foundation.  Working with their employer partners,  MichiganConstruction designed a framework to build an effective organization, serving as an industry intermediary, to integrate and align Michigan’s workforce development system.

“Michigan’s construction industry offers such opportunity for people to get good paying jobs,” Byrd says thinking about why he is excited to be part of this effort.  “MichiganConstruction easily connects job seekers with the many construction job, education and training options across the state.” Today’s construction industry needs workers with the right skills, qualifications and character to build a better Michigan.

For more information, contact Heather Smith at heather@MichiganConstruction.com.

Family-Owned Business Adjusts Hiring Process to Meet Needs of Changing Workforce

Ozinga, a fourth-generation, family-owned business that provides concrete, materials, energy and logistics solutions, reinvented their hiring process from the ground up starting in 2014 in order to best serve a rapidly changing workforce.

The company, founded in 1928, launched their Born to Build campaign in the spring of 2015, which quickly spread through social media. The original post of the video has already received roughly 3,600 likes, 280 comments, 1,700 shares and nearly 260,000 views. Those numbers continue to grow. Read more

Events

Indiana Construction Roundtable Annual Conference 2017

This event gather leaders throughout Indiana from the construction industry to discuss the challenges facing the state’s construction industry. Education is the primary focus of the Annual Conference. This year’s conference will be focused on “The Next Leap Forward.” Comparative to other major industry sectors in America, construction is often viewed as bring a conservative industry. Throughout our history we have been slow to adopt large scale change and are often reactionary in our building processes and business practices. As Hoosier leaders strive to build Indiana’s 21st century workforce and economy, it is essential that we review the successes and lessons of the past, and use those to inform our need for swift adaptation of emerging best practices. This year’s event seeks to educate the leaders in Indiana construction regarding the adoption of new technology, cutting edge business practices, and upcoming policy developments.