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Apprenticeships Help Women Across New York State Enter New Fields

Published Sunday, November 15, 2020
by Amy Neff Roth/Utica Observer-Dispatch
Apprenticeships Help Women Across New York State Enter New Fields

(MARCY, NEW YORK) - Evonna Mower, 19, knows that she wants to run her own business somedayAs a first step, she’s joined the Apprentice Program of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.  “My goal is to have my own business and build houses and stuff,” said Mower, a Jordanville resident.

Back in high school, Mower thought about taking BOCES classes to learn a Trade, but her mom talked her out of it, she said.  “She still wants me to go be a Nurse,” Mower said, “but I told her ‘no.’”

Now Mower, who started her five-year Apprenticeship in June, has been pouring concrete forms and doing other work on the site of Cree Incorporated’s new fabrication facility for the production of silicon-carbide wafers at the Marcy Nanocenter.

“I’m definitely learning a lot, I can say,” Mower said.

While Mower said she mostly gets treated just like everyone else, she admitted to hearing a few wolf whistles as one of the few women on the job site.

Out of 1,788 active Members in Local 277 of the Carpenters Union, 37 are women, said Marie Smithgall, the Local Council Representative.

The other Building Trades mostly have fewer, she said.

“We are probably the most progressive out of all Trades with women and minorities,” Smithgall said. “Usually our recruitment efforts have been on both those fronts.”

Nationally, only 1.9% of Carpenters are women, according to the Women’s Bureau of the United States Department of Labor.

That makes it the most male-dominated profession, followed closely by Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics (2% women), Electricians (2%), Construction Laborers (2.9%), First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction (2.9%) and Industrial and Refractory Machinery Mechanics (3%).

In total, 22 jobs are listed as having a workforce with less than 10% women.

Anything under 25% is considered a non-traditional job.

Alice Savino, Executive Director of the Workforce Development Board of Herkimer, Madison and Oneida Counties does see women working in road construction in the area, she said.

“Occasionally, you’ll see a woman holding the stop sign or other things like that,” she quipped.

That’s why the Workforce Development Board received a $716,676 Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant last month from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and the Employment and Training Administration.

“It will be used to recruit and train and place women in non-traditional roles, preferably Apprenticeships,” Savino said. “And the focus is (information technology) and cybersecurity, but we’re not limited to that.  So it could be manufacturing - it could be Trades.”

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