Login | March 18, 2019

More women turning to skilled labor careers

Special to the Legal News

Published: April 17, 2018

Stacie Alexander feels a sense of joy when driving past a building where she contributed to its construction.

The first-year plumbing and pipefitting apprentice and a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 189 in central Ohio says she gets more job satisfaction from her work compared with her post-college life in an office setting.

She now works 40 hours a week except every other Monday when she takes a class as part of the apprenticeship program.

"I was really interested in making this a career (over the last couple years)," Alexander said.

She gained inspiration from her father, who worked in the trades. She also enjoys applying mathematical and technical skills in her work, something she enjoyed while in high school.

"I really do enjoy working with my hands," Alexander said.

In 2017, Ohio had a 96-percent increase in the number of women enrolled in its Building Trades' Joint Apprenticeship Training programs, according to Affiliated Construction Trades Ohio.

There were 460 women enrolled in the programs last year compared with 262 out of 8,730 apprentices in 2016.

"The Building Trades offer tremendous opportunities for growth and advancement," said Matt Szollosi, executive director of Affiliated Construction Trades Ohio in a statement. "Both at the local level and here at the state level, we are doing a better job of explaining that those opportunities are available to any person who is willing to work hard."

Briana Phillips is a fourth-year apprentice and a member of the Iron Workers Local 44 in Cincinnati.

She's one more class from moving up from apprentice to a journeyman. Phillips, who turned 23 last week, fell in love with welding when she was in 10th grade.

"I just want to be iron worker just like anyone wants to be a doctor," Phillips said.

But she met much resistance from high school officials, who wanted her to attend college, and the industry itself.

It took her three attempts to get accepted into the apprenticeship program.

It wouldn't have stopped Phillips, who would have gone to another city to get her foot in the trade.

Nevertheless, Phillips got into the program and works 40 hours a week and takes night classes, twice a week.

"You make money while you're learning," she said.

Just over year ago, Phillips won her union's apprentice competition at the Iron Workers Local 44. She not only defeated her male counterparts but became the first female ironworker apprentice to compete at the district level.

"The guests were blown away by our young talent," said Dave Baker, business manager of Local 44, in a statement at the time.

Both Alexander and Phillips have young families and are able to balance work and life in their respective communities.

Phillips met her boyfriend, who was learning welding in college, and was able to persuade to join the program. She said sometimes scheduling daycare needs can be challenging but the two are able to manage.

She dreams of starting her own company and getting safety certifications for further advancement.

Alexander, who's now divorced with two kids, said she doesn't have much challenge with balancing family needs. She works extra hours when she has the opportunity but makes time with her family.

"I'm a family person, so I put my children first," she said.

She hopes to see more women get involved with the trades.

"When we're given the opportunity ... people are pretty impress," Alexander said.

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