IR #2001-03
Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Dean Fryer
(415) 703-5050

Coalition mounts effort to recruit women in the construction trades

RICHMOND-The lack of women employed in the construction trades has motivated a coalition of labor unions, government and community groups to kick off today a statewide information campaign aimed at recruiting high school girls into the construction trades.

The kickoff, staged at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Richmond as Gov. Gray Davis declared March 27 the first "California Tradeswomen Day," partnered a tribute to the legendary riveters of World War II with an apprenticeship fair that attracted almost 400 high school and junior high school students from the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Mentoring, job shadowing and school-to-career are all contemporary euphemisms for apprenticeships, a time-honored method of transferring skills from one generation to another that combines hands-on-training with classroom instruction.

In California, women compose only 7.6 percent of the 60,000 apprentices registered by the Division of Apprenticeship Standards of the California Department of Industrial Relations. Even fewer women are registered in construction trades apprenticeships.

"It's the same as it was 20 years ago," says Molly Martin, a retired electrician and one of the founding members of Tradeswomen Inc., a volunteer organization that advocates for women in the trades and is a co-sponsor of the tribute and apprenticeship fair. "One of the main problems is there aren't enough women. We don't have that critical mass we need. I think if we had that critical mass women wouldn't feel so isolated."

The tribute and apprenticeship fair in Richmond is the first in a series of events planned around the state to inform young women of apprenticeship opportunities. High school students viewed interactive demonstrations in welding, plumbing, fabricating and heavy equipment operation and discussed opportunities in sheet metal work, carpentry, elevator construction, auto mechanics and bricklaying with representatives from those trades. They also toured the newly-dedicated memorial and viewed the premiere of an oral history video about Rosie the Riveter.

The event was held in conjunction with Women's History Month. The Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO also declared March 27 National Tradeswomen Day and urged its state councils and local unions to honor tradeswomen on that day.

Co-sponsors of the tribute and apprenticeship fair include Tradeswomen Inc., State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, City of Richmond, Caltrans, California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards, Department of Labor, Women's Bureau Region IX, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Contra Costa Central Labor Council, Richmond WORKS One-Stop Downtown, Glaziers, Architectural Metal and Glass Workers Local 718 and Kazan, McClain, Edises, Simon & Abrams, a law firm.