Women and Minorities in the Trades
It’s no secret that skilled workers in trades like welding, machining and non-destructive testing are in high demand. Also, these are some great paying careers. In fact, according to Ziprecruiter, the average salary for skilled trades workers in the U.S. is $57,204, just slightly under the average for those with a bachelor’s degree: $56,287.
These types of jobs can be obtained with a one-year certificate, or two-year degree, or by completing an apprenticeship where you’re paid to go to school while working. Both options can possibly mean little to no student debt. You’re also able to start your career sooner than with a four-year degree.
But who are these skilled trades people?
“Blue collar” manufacturing trade jobs have always been predominantly held by men — usually white men. But as the older generations of workers reach the age of retirement and new workers begin their careers, trade industry opportunities grow for women and minorities.
Lena Gates, the apprenticeship coordinator at LBCC, is hoping to push those figures a lot higher.
Gates, along with some of the Career Technical Education program students, have started the process for creating a “Women and Minorities in the Trades Club” at LB.
“We’re working on establishing a group before we can apply to be an official club,” Gates said. “Anyone can join — you don’t have to be female or a minority.”
“We want to get people interested in the trades, and hopefully help to combat some of the diversity issues within these trades.”
Malynda Goodman, a third-year apprenticeship student, has worked in manufacturing for about 25 years and has experienced first hand the kind of environment a lack of diversity can create.
“When I was first awarded my apprenticeship, one of the men on my crew told me that I ‘have no place in the trades, and that our company was wasting their money on me,’” Goodman said. “At first it really hurt my feelings, but then it really pissed me off.”
“It feels like every day you have to continually prove you’re good enough,” she continued. “Some days I can do it, and some days I think why bother? But I do it so that the next woman who comes after me won’t have to.”
Even though this sounds like it must have happened 20 years ago, Goodman was awarded her apprenticeship in 2019. It’s astounding to think that women are still facing this type of discrimination today, but that is why this club is so important.
“My dream would be to one day have an all woman crew,” Goodman said. “But for that to happen, we have to empower more women to get into these jobs.”
“This club will give people a safe space to talk about issues they’re having, or to open the eyes of others who haven’t experienced discrimination,” Gates said. “I’d love to get some industry partners, and human resource people involved so they can be more aware of some of these issues and to help fix them.”
Besides being a safe place to talk about the negative things that are happening, the club will also focus on training, job growth, and opportunities for members.
“I’d like to have field trips to industry sites, and get training agents involved as well,” she said. “I think it will really help grow self-confidence in the women and minorities already involved in the trades, and help new people feel more comfortable getting involved.”
Bella Luchia, a second-year Non-Destructive Testing student, has her own reasons for joining the club.
“I thought it would be something different to try,” Luchia said. “I grew up working on cars and playing football so I don’t have many girl friends. It would be nice to interact with other women who are like me and who have the same work ethic. I have a lot of guy friends, but as a woman, it’s nice to have other women friends.”
Luchia will graduate from the NDT program this year at just 18-years-old. She graduated high school at 16 and knew that she wanted to work in the trades.
“I chose NDT because I wanted to work in the trades but without the stress on my body,” she said. “I didn’t see a point to a four-year degree. When I’m 20, I’ll be on track to buy my own house and maybe have a new car. And I won’t have lots of student debt.”
If you’re interested in getting involved, or joining, you can contact Lena Gates by email for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org