Missouri Women in Trades (MoWIT) is gearing up to launch a pilot program to prepare women considering entering the construction trades with the survival skills they need to hit the ground running.
MoWIT was awarded a $4,125 grant from the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis to help fund the Construction Skills Survival program. Three workshops will be offered this year, but the dates have yet to be announced.
“We’re really excited,” said Beth Barton, MoWIT president and member of Carpenters Local 1596. “Boston, Chicago and Portland have programs similar to this, and there, the percentage of women in construction trades is between 13 and 16 percent.”
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 11 percent of women nationwide are union members, but only 2.6 percent work in construction industry jobs.
Lynda Mueller Drendel, an instructor at the St. Louis Carpenters’ Joint Apprenticeship Program, was the mastermind behind the idea and helped write the grant proposal, Barton said. As an instructor for the program, Drendel has firsthand knowledge of how tough the trade can be on women just starting out.
“We’re hoping to level the playing field with this program so women can compete with men in the field,” said Drendel, a longtime MoWIT member. “When women enter our program and don’t have female mentors or know how to use hand and power tools, it can be easy for them to fail.”
The first workshop, which will be held at the St. Louis Carpenters’ Joint Apprenticeship Program’s Nelson-Mulligan Carpenters’ Training Center in Affton, will focus specifically on women interested in becoming carpenters, those who have just received their letters of intent or who have just entered the apprenticeship program.
The eight-hour weekend course will be taught by journey-level female carpenters and will feature a small ratio of students to teachers to ensure success. It will include a safety orientation and instruction on the use of hand and power tools and mechanical skills.
Barton said after the first workshop, her goal is to open the Construction Skills Survival program to women in all construction trades.
Established in 2006, MoWIT is a non-profit agency that provides tradeswomen with support group meetings, job information and referrals. It also maintains a work list as a resource to the construction community. For more information, call 314-963-3200 or visit mowit.org.