A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Building a Future for Women in the Construction Industry

A women’s center in Florida has decided to take a step towards filling the need of skilled craft professionals. The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women in Tampa, Florida has created the Women Building Futures program, “a free 10-week training course hosted by the center in Hillsborough County that teaches women the skills to work in construction” and encourages women to “explore higher paying career options in the dynamic construction field.”

Florida, like most of the states, has been riding the construction “upswing” since the economy began to rebound from the 2008 recession, and, like the rest of the country, it has suffered from a shortage of construction laborers and craft professionals. The Centre for Women saw this crisis as an opportunity. The Centre reached out to Debra Palmer, the past president of the National Association of Women in Construction, “to help design the criteria of the class”. They also received an $80,000 grant from Hillsborough County to fund the program.

During the program, volunteers from some of Tampa Bay’s construction companies host training sessions and teach the women multiple skills, such as professional painting, plumbing, electrical basics, and learning how to read construction drawings. After the women have completed the program, they receive an Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety certification.

In an article from the Tampa Bay Times, Palmer says “Every contractor I know is desperate for skilled laborers...The demand is great and the industry is changing. There are real opportunities for women in construction...There is still a stigma there, that women aren't generally accepted in construction, but that's changing more and more...I see it improving every day."

The Tampa Bay Times states that,

“In 2014, women made up just 8.9 percent of the construction industry workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But unlike other industries, the pay gap between men and women in construction is much smaller. Women in the U.S. earn on average 82.1 percent of what men make. In construction, women earn 93.4 percent of what men make, Labor Statistics data shows.”

The program had 40 students in their inaugural class. According to the Tampa Tribune, “two of the women who completed the first Women Building Futures program have applied for jobs with contractors...Another got hired immediately by a big-box store when its hiring staff learned she had gone through the program. Another woman landed a job as an administrative assistant in a construction office, which she hopes will lead to an apprenticeship.”

Orientation and registration for the second sessions began last week, and there is already a waiting list for women who want to participate in the program.

To read more about how the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women is preparing women for the construction industry, please visit the Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Tribune.

Learn more about Women Building Futures here.