By SHERI GASSAWAY
She may only be 27, but IBEW Local 1 apprentice Tiffany Jones has some good advice for women considering a career in the building trades.
“Ask a lot of questions, get involved in your union and other worker advocate groups and find at least one tradeswoman to confide in because it can be difficult being a woman in the trades, and especially a black woman,” she said. “You’ll need that support – a shoulder to lean on.”
Jones, a third-year Local 1 apprentice, found that support through her sisters in the electricians’ union and Missouri Women in Trades (MoWIT), a non-profit organization that provides tradeswomen with support group meetings, job information and referrals.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE, BE AN ADVOCATE
Today, Jones serves on the MoWIT Executive Board, helping other women in the building trades, and recently referred another young woman to the Iron Workers Local 396 pre-apprentice program. Jones is also a member of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus.
“It’s all about networking and helping others,” she said. “As a woman in the building trades, it’s important to lead by example and be an advocate because other women will see you and think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it, too.’”
THE CONVERSATION THAT LED TO HER CAREER CHOICE
Jones has a bachelor of arts degree with a minor in communications studies from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. While she was in college, she worked at Menards in the Hardware Department and started talking to a customer who was a SEMO alumni in the pipefitters union.
“He would come in and buy tools and supplies and we knew a lot of the same people through his fraternity,” she said. “One day we started talking about work and he asked me what I had planned to do after college.”
Jones told the man she had no idea what she was going to do with her arts degree, but that she had liked an electronics class she took in high school and also liked working with her hands.
FROM ARTS TO ELECTRICITY
“He thought I might like electrical construction work and suggested I apply for an apprenticeship at IBEW Local 1 in Cape Girardeau,” she said. “I’m always down for venturing out to try a different opportunity.”
Jones applied for an apprenticeship at IBEW Local 1 in November 2014. Shortly afterward, she moved back to St. Louis and notified the Cape Girardeau local of her new address. Two months later, she received a call for an interview with Local 1 in St. Louis and began working in the field in June 2015.
Jones spent her first two years as an apprentice in the Inside Electrician program. Last year, she switched to the local’s Communications Technician program and now works at Primary Systems, which provides design, installation and maintenance of audio/video, security, life safety and building automation systems.
MoWIT is dedicated to expanding opportunities for women to enter and succeed in apprenticeship and careers in the building trades. The organization works with employers, unions, educational organizations and other entities and allies to increase women’s equal employment opportunities and equitable working conditions.
For women in the building trades or those who are considering a career in the field, MoWIT offers a support group meeting the second Wednesday of the month at its office at 2929 S. Jefferson Ave. in St. Louis. For more information, visit mowit.org or call 636-926-6948.