by Matthew Guarracino
Across the country and here in the Commonwealth, research continues to show that diversity, in the broadest terms, enhances productivity and fosters innovation. This is particularly true for the construction sector, which has grappled with inclusivity in a historically male-driven industry.
But that is rapidly changing. The number of women in construction jobs nationwide has risen steadily over the past several decades, and there has perhaps been no better progress than in Massachusetts, where female trade apprenticeships have skyrocketed in recent years.
Today, the number of Bay State women getting their start in construction through union-run apprenticeships is triple the national average. To be sure, strides continue to be made. For instance, according to the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues, Suffolk Construction had the highest number of women on a single U.S. job site ever during the construction of the Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett.
Yet, few would dispute there remains a lingering skills gap in our state, with jobs still left unfilled in the construction industry. That is why leaders in business, government, and labor have launched programs and initiatives to encourage more Massachusetts women to consider this much in-demand career. Through work by the Northeast Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity and union initiatives such as Build a Life MA, Massachusetts women and other underrepresented groups, including young girls, are increasingly encouraged to explore new career paths and take advantage of training opportunities. These development strategies can lead to rewarding, good-paying jobs in the professional trades.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Greater Boston construction industry to pause last year, it was difficult to ignore the correlation between our state’s workforce issues and the gender disparity in construction. And despite our historic building boom, Massachusetts has one of the largest construction worker shortages in the U.S., while the percentage of construction workers under the age of 25 has shrunk nationwide for the past 20 years.
The result of the skills gap in construction is clear: The cost of building is rising with projects taking longer than expected to complete. Clearly, this is bad for a company’s bottom-line, and it also demonstrates why our industry must remain accessible to younger workers of all stripes. Keep in mind, construction jobs often pay between $60,000 and $130,000 annually, offering good benefits and family-friendly hours. And, unlike in years past, working in the construction sector now frequently demands a wide range of skillsets, including marketing, technology, and accounting.
One of our apprentices, Amber Marchetto, was recently recognized with an Employee Spotlight at JME. Speaking about her introduction to the field, she said: “Entering into the construction sector as a 30-year-old woman with no experience was intimidating at first, but four years later, I have no doubt it was the right choice for me. In just a few years, I have seen the number of women entering into the trades increase and I’m excited to see more and more women coming into an industry that that offers opportunities to learn, grow, and gain real-world experience.”
At JM Electrical, we are proud to maintain a long and strong partnership with the Wentworth Institute of Technology which graduates individuals “who consistently bring extraordinary value to their organizations and to the world.” We continue to employ many of the school’s graduates, because Wentworth, like JM Electrical and the Massachusetts construction industry, is committed to cultural and gender diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, our Local 103 chapter embodies the sorts of strides that should be replicated across the country. With so much talent available in the Commonwealth, companies have begun to recruit the next generation of leaders in the construction fields, reinvigorating our industry and ensuring we are meeting the state’s skills gap challenges head on.
Matthew Guarracino is a principal at JM Electrical Company.