Women in Construction Week

Can more female workers help to solve the construction industry’s workforce pinch?

By Kevyn Burger
Thu, 2017-03-09 13:17

Minnesota is in the midst of a robust construction boom, with cranes dangling over big projects in the commercial, residential and public works sectors.

But a shortage of skilled workers could slow continued growth in the industry.

During the annual National Women in Construction week, (March 5-11) local construction companies and women who work on job sites in various capacities are teaming up to showcase opportunities for women in the Twin Cities region.

Locally, the chapter is hosting tours, receptions and open houses to give women prospects a chance to interact with women working in the trades and to learn about educational opportunities to prepare them for construction careers.

“We want the opportunity to put out the word about entering the industry. There are great opportunities for women to earn a livable wage for their families and further their careers,”  says Janelle Miller, co-chair of the Women in Construction Week committee of the Minnesota chapter of the National Women in Construction (NAWIC).

Today, Miller works as Contract Administrator for Chicago City- based Peterson Companies, Inc. She began her career as a laborer in 1997.

“As a single parent, I could earn a wage where I could afford to build a house and take care of my son. It’s doable thing for women who have the desire and drive,” she adds.

The number of construction jobs in Minnesota is expanding; last year the state added 9,300 new positions. 

But women continue to be underrepresented in the field. According to a 2014 report from the National Women’s Law Center, only 2.6% of the nation’s construction jobs are held by females.

“Right now we have 100% employment. We have an aging work force and we’re crying for replacements. Women are an untapped resource and we need them,” says Peter Hilger, faculty director of the Construction Management degree program at the University of Minnesota.

“Also, women and minority owned subcontractors are highly coveted. Big federal and state projects have workforce development goals that target them,” he adds.

The U’s construction degree program offer students four tracks of study: commercial construction, facility management, highway heavy and civil works and residential construction.

The program produced and is releasing a YouTube video this week to acknowledge three of its accomplished female graduates and highlight their professional careers.

The number of women preparing for construction management careers is growing slowly but steadily. Today at the U, 19% of the students enrolled in the programs are female.

 “A lot of them will have great careers on the project management side of the business,” Hilger predicts. “I think more women in the management ranks will trickle down to the job site and that will open the door for more women in the workforce. Then girls will see more women across the board in the industry as role models.”