Construction has always been a typically male-dominated industry, but recent findings show that trend may be changing. In 2015 9.3 percent of approximately 9,935,000 construction workers were women, up from the 8.9 percent in reported in 2014.
If you’ve been thinking about a career in the construction industry, now is a great time to explore your options. Here are five tips to help you land a job, and make your mark in the brave new world of women with hammers:
1. Choose the Right Trade for You
There’s actually a lot more to construction than just hammers and nails. A completed project requires a number of different tradespeople with a variety of talents and skill levels. Research salaries and job projections, talk to others in the profession and determine where you want to concentrate your efforts.
Remember that the off-season can be tough for contractors, so make sure you look toward long term success. Moving into your Mom’s basement isn’t a positive life change, even if it’s just during the winter when you can’t get work.
2. Decide Where You Want to Begin
Once you’ve decided where you want to go with your career, there are several ways to find jobs in construction.
- Use a Temporary Service: If you want to jump right in and start immediately, consider signing up with a temporary agency. This route might land you on the long end of a broom, unloading trucks or even picking up trash, but if you need a job, it gives you money to pay the bills as you become familiar with the everyday workings of a job site.
- Attend a Trade School: Attending a trade school will allow you to increase your skills as you gain on-the-job experience. There are a number of available options, from brick-and-mortar schools to online courses you can take at your leisure.
- Find an Apprenticeship: Many unions and construction firms offer apprenticeships, especially if you are looking at a specialty trade. NEW, a New York-based program, partners with unions to offer apprenticeships especially for women with a competitive wage and multiple benefits, once they complete a paid training program. See if you can find something similar in your area.
3. Find the Right Employer
Construction jobs and trades can vary greatly when it comes to salaries and benefits. Your opportunities will depend on your experience and training, though if a company offers you cash and picks you up in front of the convenience store in a flatbed at 6:00 am, you might want to pass.
It’s important to find a reputable company, with a good reputation and full-time employees. Employers like Cleveland Brothers have great benefits including a 401K, paid vacations and holidays, group health and disability insurance.
4. Take Advantage of Available Resources
Despite the need for women in the construction industry, there are still barriers and obstacles to overcome. Take advantage of the resources available to keep abreast of industry news and gain support from other women who have gone before you.
Many of these organizations also offer blogs, training, conferences and even scholarships for women in the construction field. It’s always helpful to have a support network and know there are others like you who know what it’s like to share an outhouse with a bunch of guys.
5. Never Stop Learning
Stay on top of the industry. Learn as much as you can about new products, procedures and different options available in your field. Make yourself the go-to guy by always being ready to solve problems and offer solutions.
Being a woman in a man’s world can be tough, but once they realize you know your stuff, there’s a good chance that you’ll become a respected (and invaluable) part of the crew.
Though not for the weak of heart, women can bring a needed balance to male-dominated trades. Richard Wood, president of Plaza Construction, believes women can do most construction assignments as well as, or possibly better than, a man. Because many women are natural students of human nature, they are well-suited to interact with the diverse group of people involved in construction projects.
By taking chances and moving into these typically male professions, women everywhere are blazing a trail for those who don’t fit into stereotypical female roles. As more and more women step into these jobs, it opens doors that make it possible for everyone to do what they love, and use their abilities in ways that were nearly impossible just 20 short years ago. So don’t worry, you’ve got this.