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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.

Clearinghouse Puts Transportation Resources at Your Fingertips

The Midwest Transportation Workforce Center (MTWC) recently launched its new, searchable database of transportation workforce resources. With over 1300 entries, the search feature is accessed by clicking on “Clearinghouse” in the top menu of the MTWC website. Here, you will find listings of a variety of resources including pre-apprenticeship programs, internships, educational opportunities, professional development opportunities, scholarships, summer programs, and workforce development initiatives across the nine-state MTWC region, and beyond.

While the website, with its varied content devoted to growing the transportation pipeline, is a first stop for people seeking transportation workforce information, the indexing of resources in this new database will help users find what they are looking for more readily.

The Clearinghouse is a resource for educators looking for transportation curricula or programs, industry or workforce professionals looking for successful practices, or parents who are looking for summer programs for their budding transportation professional. So, if you are looking for Supply Chain programs in the region, or K-12 programs that target girls, we can help.

“Our vision for a Clearinghouse is that it will help us capture and define the collective work we are doing in this region. These transportation resources span the continuum from K-12 career awareness through professional development across all transportation occupations. With this database, we can determine where the gaps are and where we need to improve career pathways.  As our communities prepare for the future of the transportation workforce, this kind of information will form a fundamental baseline for these planning discussions. We will be ready,” said Maria Hart, MTWC Program Manager.

The MTWC website is a one-stop for all things related to the transportation talent pipeline in the Midwest. With MTWC, you can connect with your peers, share best practices, read about others’ successes, and help define and develop the Midwest strategy for transportation talent development.

Please click here to explore the most comprehensive compilation of the region’s transportation workforce development initiatives, programs, and resources.

Make Sure Your Resources Are Listed

The MTWC Clearinghouse is always growing and improving. This launch is only the beginning. Help us build this network. To get your resource listed, please complete the MTWC Clearinghouse submission form. Or, send information along with a website link by email to Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu.

UW–Superior Transportation Day for Girls Scouts Inspires Career Interest

Career awareness efforts are most effective when they inspire interest among young people. An event hosted by the Transportation and Logistics Management Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Superior is designed to do just that. By partnering with a local council of the Girl Scouts, Dr. Richard Stewart, the center’s director, has developed a day-long event that brings elementary and middle-school-aged girls to the UW–Superior campus to explore careers in transportation.

The program was developed after Stewart learned about the “Trucks are for Girls” Fun Patch created by the Women in Trucking Association with Girl Scouts in the Chicago area. Stewart worked to develop the UW–Superior program with Cassie Roemhildt, a research associate who is also the mom of two girl scouts. They built on knowledge shared by Women in Trucking and pulled-in support from industry sponsors as well as from the National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education (CFIRE).

“It’s interesting to see that, at age twelve, many girls are already thinking about their careers,” said Roemhildt. “This event shows girls the ‘hidden empire’ of transportation.” Read more

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