Sheet metal worker Lisa Davis
Nov. 1 − 7 is National Apprenticeship Week. It’s an opportunity for the national apprenticeship community to tell the story of registered apprenticeship – a proven strategy for recruiting, training, and retaining a highly-skilled and diverse workforce. In 2014, President Obama challenged the U.S. Department of Labor to double and diversify the number of registered apprentices in the United States over the next 5 years. Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. is proud to be part of that effort.
In fact, we’ve been working to help women access apprenticeships in the construction industry for more than 25 years. Through our Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class, hundreds of women have obtained family-supporting, high-skill careers in building, construction, mechanical, electrical, utility and highway trades. Prior to leading Oregon Tradeswomen, I was the first woman in Oregon to become licensed as an elevator mechanic. I also serve on the Federal Advisory Committee on Registered Apprenticeship where thousands of women and girls from diverse backgrounds have gained information about careers and apprenticeship opportunities in historically male-dominated industries.
As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we were excited to host a "Women in Apprenticeship Day" on Nov. 4th to celebrate Oregon's success in introducing women to apprenticeship. Industry employers, public officials, and our pre-apprenticeship students convened at the Sheet Metal Institute training center for a press event and a tour of the state of the art facility. We also hosted a field trip for Oregon Tradeswomen's current class of pre-apprenticeship students to engage in hands-on activities to learn about the trade. Our partnership with the Sheet Metal Institute has resulted in more than 8 percent female apprentices in the program, which is nearly three times the national average for women in construction trades apprenticeships! We were also thrilled that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown showed her support by proclaiming Nov. 4 as Women in Apprenticeship Day.
Lisa Davis represents one of our many success stories. She is a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 16, as well as an instructor at the Sheet Metal Institute. She started her apprenticeship there after a few dissatisfying years in medical school led her to Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship program. In college, Lisa worked as a mechanic in a bowling alley. She had always enjoyed fixing bowling pinsetters and arcade games, and decided to make a career of it after learning about the benefits of apprenticeship. Sheet metal apprenticeship was a natural fit for her. Lisa loves the variety of her trade and she’s committed to her craft and her success as a trades professional: “This is about your life, your career, your future and your family's future. You have to be willing to fight for it because you believe in it and you believe in yourself.”
The Women’s Bureau recognizes that there are many women out there like Lisa, women with the desire and aptitude to pursue careers in fields where they have traditionally been under represented and who, when equipped with the right resources and information, will make good on those aspirations, to the benefit of employers and families alike. That’s why the Women’s Bureau has launched a new portal called “Women Build, Protect and Move America.” Currently, the site focuses on careers in construction, law enforcement and transportation careers. Specifically, the website will provide a repository of information for women job-seekers, service providers, and others, including occupational data and statistics; relevant organizations, associations and advocacy groups; promising practices and success stories; and support service resource and referral information.
Oregon Tradeswomen is honored to celebrate the first National Apprenticeship Week with the Women’s Bureau, and we’re excited to use this opportunity to echo the sentiments of the president, Secretary Perez and countless others that apprenticeship is for everyone who is interested in a quality, high-skill career, men and women alike.
Connie Ashbrook is the executive director of Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.