Demand for Skilled Labor Provides Opportunities

While the construction industry is still a massively male-dominated field, over the last five years there has been an 85% increase in construction jobs for women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s one of the fastest-growing industries, second only to taxi driver and chauffeur positions.

Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC) chief economist Ken Simonson says, “Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread.” In fact, 80% of construction firms indicate they are having a hard time filling hourly and craft positions, which represent the bulk of the industry’s workforce.Women are now building careers in construction, helping bridge the gap and fill vacancies.

Breaking ground

Women in construction currently comprise a small 9% of the workforce. As construction is expected to grow over the coming years to create almost 2 million new jobs by 2021, companies are looking to recruit more women to bring their skill sets into the field.

In addition to wanting to fill roles where there is a void, there are several reasons women pursue a fulfilling career in the trades, including:

Narrower gender wage gap. Working women in the U.S. earn approximately 81.1% of what men make. In a construction job, however, women earn on average 95.7% of what their male counterparts take home.

Available training. In many parts of the country, companies collaborate with local communities to offer courses and training programs for women and young girls interested in the industry. For example, in Southern California, when Long Beach City College (LBCC) brought back the trades program, companies were there. “We haven’t even tried to get industry partners, but they seem to be coming to us,” said Gene Carbonaro, dean of career technical education at LBCC.

Educational funding. Construction trades do not require a college degree, but women interested in taking training courses can find financial assistance. The American Council for Construction Education and The National Housing Endowment offers several scholarships and resources. Additionally, other organizations such as The American Welding Society and the National Association of Women in Construction are among those offering scholarships to cover educational costs.

Growing network. As the community of women in construction grows, more women become available to share insights and mentor those entering the field.

In Southern California, these organizations provide more information for women in construction: National Association of Women in Construction(NAWIC)Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS) and Tradewomen, Inc.

Real-world example

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is in the midst of a series of capital improvement projects, employing thousands of workers in construction jobs.

While it is extremely rare for infrastructure projects to be awarded to a slate of contractors entirely or almost entirely run by women, for the first time, a team of women-led businesses has been awarded a major contract from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The team of six businesses — two prime contractors and four subcontractors — was awarded the $25.9 million contract by Metro. The prime contractors, KDG Construction Consulting is headed by Lydia Kennard, former Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director; Destination Enterprises, Inc. was founded and is led by transit engineer Marcy Szarama. The subcontractor firms led by women include Rohadfox Construction Control Services Corp., Fariba Nation Consulting, CER Scheduling Consultants and Virtek Co.

The focus of these companies will be the construction of the rail and bus connector station that links the Crenshaw/LAX rail line with the people mover system currently under construction at the airport. The station is scheduled to open in 2023.

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