Build Better Podcast

Fulfilling a Mission to Recruit and Promote Women in the Trades

Elizabeth Skidmore

by Emily Langner

On episode 18 of the Build Better podcast, Anastasia talked with Elizabeth Skidmore, a business representative with the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (NASRCC), and co-founder of the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues (PGTI).

Thanks in large part to the PGTI and its stakeholders, including working tradeswomen, construction companies, labor union officials, general contractors, subcontractors, architects, developers, and government officials, the number of women in union apprenticeship programs in Massachusetts is at 9.22%, triple the national average.

Skidmore emphasizes, however, that there is still a lot of work to be done. The goal, she says, is to increase the number to 20% by 2020. To help reach that goal, the PGTI has established a strategy to increase both the supply of qualified tradeswomen and the demand for women on the job.

One key piece of the strategy is the Access and Opportunity Committee at UMass Boston, which has met monthly or bi-monthly since 2009. Out of that came PGTI’s “Finishing the Job” document, which is a “how-to” manual for training and apprenticeship programs, community-based organizations, and industry professionals. It details best practices and includes checklists for “increasing access for women and people of color to good paying careers in the construction trades.”

The Finishing the Job document identifies four specific responsibilities for diversity that apply to all stakeholder groups in construction. They include setting and communicating high workforce participation goals early and often, seeking out and establishing the partnerships needed to access and recruit a diverse workforce, monitoring and reporting progress to all stakeholders, and doing it all again.

Another piece of the puzzle, Skidmore says, is organizations like Build a Life That Works, which works to educate women about the advantages of working in the trades, and strengthening the pipeline between apprentice programs and vocational schools with events like the Mass Girls in Trades events.

Skidmore says by pushing the envelope and continuing to set goals, women will continue to gain entry into great careers in the industry. She emphasizes that collaboration and the sharing of information is integral in meeting these goals. Additionally, Skidmore points out that focusing on promoting women in the industry, in turn, promotes minorities, as half of the women entering the trades are also people of color.

Skidmore encourages industry professionals to attend a PGTI meeting, download the Finishing the Job document, and to maintain a commitment to prioritizing diversity in the workforce. Skidmore adds, “It just seems so clear, there is no good reason there’s not more women in the industry. These are satisfying jobs. Let’s get more women into it.”

Listen to episode 18 now!