Women are too few in the trades – but that can change
Women are traditionally underrepresented in the trades. Although they are 50% of the workforce, in 2022 they accounted for only 2.3% of HVAC techs, 2.2% of electricians, and 1.1% of plumbers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Recent investment in workforce development has created the perfect opportunity for women to start a career in the trades, and for the trades to become a better place for women.
This investment, stemming from legislation like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act, is making a career in the trades more accessible than ever, with infrastructure spending already creating new opportunities for women throughout the country.
The Trades Need to Recruit More Women
In 2022, skilled trades jobs experienced double-digit growth, meaning the industry is full of opportunities for new workers – more opportunities than it can handle, in fact.
The construction industry is currently battling the highest level of unfilled job openings ever recorded. Exacerbating the issue, 41% of current construction workers are expected to retire by 2031. And, according to job site ZipRecruiter, online applications for construction jobs fell 40% when the pandemic began, and they’ve remained flat ever since.
These struggles are not new, either, as 80% of construction companies report challenges with recruiting, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, and a workforce shortage has been consistently cited as the industry’s number one issue for the past six years.
An increased emphasis on recruiting women could be the solution the industry has been searching for. The expanded investment brought by the Infrastructure, Inflation, and CHIPS Acts can be a significant catalyst for change, breaking down barriers that have traditionally kept women out of the trades, easing industry-wide workforce shortages, and improving the skilled trades as a whole.
The First Step Towards Recruiting More Women
Construction companies should be looking to partner with local colleges, career centers, and trade schools in order to create a dedicated recruitment effort focused on women, highlighting the opportunities and benefits of a career in the trades.
A career in the industry has many benefits that can interest women, especially given that women can earn 97 cents for every dollar a man earns in construction, compared to the U.S. average of 81 cents.
Not only would adding more women to the industry ease its workforce issues, but it would also increase the industry’s ability to drive innovation. Women are also more than capable of learning all the same skills as their male coworkers, and adding more of them to a team can boost its ability to creatively solve problems.
Improving women’s access to new skills and apprenticeship opportunities may only be the first step to increasing their numbers in the skilled trades, but it’s a critical step that needs to be taken.