During the 1960s and 1970s, the feminist movement pushed for women to enter careers that were exclusively male-dominated, including the trades. As a result, women broke down barriers and became painters, plumbers, electricians, and the like. This movement was even reflected on the silver screen in the movie Flashdance, which featured a young woman welder as the main character.
Today, we don’t hear much about advocating that women enter the trades. It seems that the powers that be have turned their attention to encouraging women to enter the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. But the trades still offer excellent opportunities for women to make a living and are more attractive than ever for several reasons.
There are several pathways to enter the trades. Receiving training through a trade school, community college, or an apprenticeship programs are the most common ways. One of the attractive aspects of a career in the trades is that it does not require a four-year college degree. Therefore, you don’t have the astronomical debt with which many college graduates are burdened.
Another benefit of an education in the trades is that the coursework is geared to your employment. There are no fluff courses, so you will enter the workforce quicker and will be making money while your friends are still racking up debt in college.
Community college is much more affordable compared to a four-year college education. Trade schools can be a bit costlier than community college, but there are scholarships for women entering the trades. Apprenticeship program educate workers on-the-job and in the classroom at no cost to the trainee, while at the same time allowing the apprentice to earn money while acquiring skills.
Trade jobs are also available. According to The Associated General Contractors of America, 70 percent of contractors are having a difficult time finding skilled trade workers. In 2017, the Pennsylvania report from a survey of AGC members in the state reported that 74 percent of them are having trouble finding trade workers. With increased construction in the Pittsburgh, especially with the Shell cracker plant under construction in Beaver County, the Allegheny Conference has estimated that combined with the retiring Baby Boomers leaving the workforce, by 2025, the region will be short 80,000 skilled trade workers.
Another attractive aspect of a career in the trades is that the positions usually pay well, providing women the opportunity to earn a lucrative living, while at the same time offer job security. There will always be a need for someone to fix leaky pipes, lay bricks, install electrical wires, etc., so these types of careers are not likely to disappear with innovation or technology.
The trades are not only for those fresh out of high school. Opportunities are available for those women desiring to make a career change. Whether you are new graduate contemplating your future, are a single mom in need of a well-paying job, a woman with a degree stuck in a dead-end job, or just someone who likes the satisfaction of seeing tangible results from your labor, the trades deserve consideration as a wonderful way to make a living.