Women's Construction Career Fair Aims to Demolish Gender-Based Myths About The Construction Trades

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Electricians and IBEW Local 401 sisters Michelle Abell and Nicole Perez

The future may be female, but those building it—at least right now—are still mostly male. The annual Building Women Career Fair, hosted by the Northern Nevada Apprenticeship Coordinators Association (NNACA) and sponsored by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada and the State of Nevada’s Office of Workforce Innovation, aims to change that by hammering away at the myths that keep women from pursuing careers in construction. 

The fair, which welcomes women (and men!) of all ages, happens on Friday, November 16, 2018 at the TMCC Applied Technology Center at 475 Edison Way in Reno. The event is part of National Apprenticeship Week, and runs from 9:30a to 3p. Virtual reality stations and cool, hands-on building activities in trades like welding, sheet metal, pipefitting and more will give attendees a chance to interact with equipment and safely sample the on-the-job experience of painting a room or welding pipe. Local tradeswomen will be on hand to answer questions about what it’s really like to be a woman working in construction, and to help interested women navigate the application process for paid apprenticeships they can start right out of high school.

“Women have proven again and again that they’re just as hardworking and capable, and in some cases even outperform, men in the building trades,” says NNACA trades apprenticeship recruiter Dian VanderWell, “but nobody’s telling young women that. The myth still persists that it’s still a career most suited to men, or that the trades aren’t a progressive career option for women. We’d like to change that, and this career fair is a good start.”

Despite construction’s industry’s paid training, high wages, and good benefits, the national average of women working in the trades is still at just under 10%—but that needle is beginning to move. Most tradeswomen report that they’ve often been the only woman on a given job site, but are starting to see more of their female counterparts—referred to in the trade unions as sisters—on the job. In some areas, all-female work crews have been spotted, and Habitat for Humanity has begun assembly all-female construction crews in some areas. And women-owned construction companies are on the rise. It’s estimated that within ten years, women will comprise as much as 25% of the construction workforce.

Last month, more than 2,000 tradeswomen from around the world, including large groups from Canada and smaller cohorts from Ireland and Nigeria, gathered in Seattle for the 8th annual Women Build Nations Conference—the third largest gathering of union members in the U.S.—to talk shop on issues ranging from recruitment and mentorship to career advancement and technology to the evergreen issues of sexism and harassment on the job. 

VanderWell, who attended the conference to learn what tradeswomen need to be successful, and to bring home ideas for recruiting more of them, says the mass of tradeswomen gathered in one place to help each other was inspiring. “These women are coming together not just at the conference, but in tight-knit women’s trades associations in their local areas, to help each other go farther in their careers and navigate some of the challenges. I’d like to see a group for tradeswomen in Northern Nevada gain traction. It’s been clear in our previous years that women of all ages are interested in these careers, but there’s still a barrier to tear down in getting them to take the step to apply, and then to stay.”

Robert Benner, business agent for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada, top sponsors of the annual Construction Career Day in Reno, agrees. “Yes it’s starting to change, but it’s still challenging to be a woman in the building trades, and we’ve got to keep working at making the environment supportive of women. We do that in part by bringing more women into these fields, having more women on our job sites, and then getting them on the path to leadership and fully supporting them in that.” 

What: Building Women Career Fair
When: Friday, November 16, 2018, 9:30a-3p
Where: TMCC Applied Tech Center, 475 Edison Way, Reno
More: https://www.facebook.com/events/182947265963489/

WATCH:
Eight Reno/Sparks area tradeswomen at all stages of their careers talk about what it's like working as a woman in the building and construction trades, and why they'd recommend a trades career to hardworking women who want to be financially independent.

Northern Nevada Union Leader Robert Benner honored at Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Dinner

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It was an event studded with some of Nevada’s brightest political figures at the Democratic Party of Washoe County’s annual Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Dinner and fundraiser at the Reno Ballroom last night, where Washoe Dems honored three community leaders for their exemplary work on behalf of the Democratic party. The 2018 Virginia Demmler honorees were Nevada State Senator Julia Ratti, Democratic Party of Washoe County Secretary and community advocate Dean Schermerhorn, and Northern Nevada Central Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer, Building Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada Business Representative, and SMART Local 26 President Robert Benner.

Washoe Dems: “As a pillar in the labor community, Benner is heavily involved with several unions. Additionally, he is incredibly involved with the Democratic Party of Washoe County. Specifically he is the Chair of the Business Policy, Employee Rights, Economic Policy, Pay Equity, and Retirement Security committee.” 

Benner and his fellow honorees were welcomed by Nevada gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, and Congresswoman and candidate for U.S. Senate Jacky Rosen. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro was the event’s keynote. 

Benner used the spotlight to outline a brief modern history of labor in the U.S. and the wax-and-wane cycle of workers rights, ever-subject to current political climates, and to drive home the message that our country was founded on the principle that government—like unions—should be of the people, for the people, and by the people: 

“We have forgotten where we came from and how we got here. We need to pick  up where we left off: to elect people that are going to fight for workers, fight for small business, and fight for the middle class. We need to make it easier for workers to organize, unite, and move this country in the right  direction—the  direction of representation for all, the direction of prosperity for all, the direction of democracy for all.”

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The Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Dinner honors those whose service to the Democratic party and community honors that of the former Virginia Demmler, a lifelong activist whose work was instrumental to the success of the Democratic Party of Washoe County, where she served as chair and executive director. 

September 27 is Construction Career Day in Northern Nevada

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On September 27, hundreds of Washoe County School District middle- and high school students will pour into the Reno-Sparks Convention Center to spend part of their day exploring careers in the building and construction trades. The event, the third annual Construction Career Day, is hosted by the Nevada Builders Alliance and supported by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada, the Northern Nevada Apprenticeship Coordinator's Association, the Washoe County School District's Signatures and Career and Technical Education program, and the Associated General Contractors of Nevada. The idea: to give local students exposure to an interactive, hands-on experience with the changing, and rapidly-growing, field of construction.

While good old-fashioned construction work is alive and well in Northern Nevada, and on display at Construction Career Day, it's not all hard hats and tool belts. Careers in construction are becoming increasingly high-tech, and these lucky students get the chance to immerse themselves in real-world building scenarios via virtual reality headsets, where they can experience what it's like to actually work a job site. Last year, the welding experience was popular—particularly with young women. 

"The girls really loved the interactive welding exhibit," said Dian VanderWell of the Northern Nevada Apprenticeship Coordinator's Association. "And they're really good at it. Even the guys agreed, women just seem to be naturally better at welding."

Students who find their interest piqued by the exhibits and interactions will have the opportunity to get more information on the vast career options in the industry and how to prepare for them, including applying for well-paid apprenticeship programs right out of high school. 

"Most parents and even some teachers aren't aware that these are high-paid, high-tech, high-demand careers with great advancement paths," said Rob Benner, business representative for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada. "In our plumbing program, as an example, all of our graduating apprentices leave with advanced mechanical and electronic skills, making over $40/hour with full health benefits. There aren't many college graduates earning that even several years after graduation. Even more important, those good wages aren't being undercut by student debt."

In fact, building and construction apprenticeships are one of the few career fields closing the wage gap for women and minorities. Everyone starts an apprenticeship program at the same wage, and wages advance equally throughout the program. After graduation, career options range from instructor to foreman/supervisor to small business owner to developer, even urban planner or civic legislator. Most apprentices graduate from the program with college credits from TMCC, and some with a full associate’s degree.

"I'd say this a no-brainer for kids and parents," said VanderWell, "but it's a big-brainer. This isn't the vo-tech school of yesterday—there's rigorous academic training in math, geometry, technology, communications. The kids who excel in these apprenticeship programs really are set up for a long, lucrative career they can take just about anywhere." ▪

Interested students should contact their teachers or CTE school administrators. Check out the Construction Career Day videos from last year and 2016!

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Ironworkers Local 118 members get up close and personal with local candidates at meet-and-greet BBQ last weekend

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Members of Northern Nevada's Ironworkers Local 118 had a chance to pick the minds of local, labor-endorsed political candidates like Steve Sisolak, Sarah Peters, Aaron Ford, Catherine Byrne, Paul McKenzie, and others last Saturday. For candidates, the meet-up offered a chance to connect more intimately with constituents in the labor community before the three-day 62nd Annual Nevada State AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention began on Sunday, where candidates, elected officials, and state union leaders took to the podium to talk about the issues facing working Nevadans, like living wages, affordable healthcare, and jobs.

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Free Orientation for Reno-Sparks Construction Apprenticeships on August 2nd

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If you've ever thought about a career in the building and construction trades, now is the time to take the next step! Construction is booming in Northern Nevada, and local apprenticeship programs are recruiting men and women who are ready to help us build the new Nevada. Our building and construction apprenticeships are:

  • Earn-while-you-learn. You'll get state-of-the-art training in your field while earning a good wage and gaining valuable experience.
  • Debt-free. Most of our apprenticeship programs are free to participants. No student loans and grant applications required. 
  • Internationally-accredited. After graduation, take your new skills and certifications anywhere!

Join us on Thursday, August 2 from 11am-12pm for a free orientation available construction apprenticeships, including instructions on how to apply immediately. 

Where: Sparks JobConnect, 2281 Pyramid Way in Sparks
When: Thursday, August 2 at 11am
Cost: FREE

Call 775-284-9520 for more information.

"There are opportunities in the unions I didn't expect."

Painter's apprentice Samuel Ortiz talks about why he joined the Painters and Allied Trades Local 567, and where he wants to go from here.

Samuel is just one of hundreds of building and construction apprentices in Northern Nevada being paid to train for a great career. See what some of our other apprentices have to say, and learn more about how you can earn-while-you-learn a new career in the busy and growing construction industry.

Survey technician apprentice Elizabeth Bring: "I'm basically getting paid to become an engineer."

Elizabeth Bring's father was a union lumberjack and her mother was a union truck driver. She joined the apprenticeship program at the Operating Engineers Local 3 in Reno to keep the family tradition of trade union careers (and working outdoors) alive.


It's a great time to build a new career in Nevada's booming construction industry. Are you ready to start building yours today? Learn more about how to get on-the-job training as a building and construction trades apprentice. New classes start throughout the year.

Free info session on construction apprenticeships this Thursday at Sparks JobConnect

If you've ever thought about a career in the building and construction trades, now is the time to take the next step! Construction is booming in Northern Nevada, and local apprenticeship programs are recruiting men and women who are ready to help us build the new Nevada. Our building and construction apprenticeships are:

  • Earn-while-you-learn. You'll get state-of-the-art training in your field while earning a good wage and gaining valuable experience.
  • Debt-free. Most of our apprenticeship programs are free to participants. No student loans and grant applications required. 
  • Internationally-accredited. After graduation, take your new skills and certifications anywhere!

Join us tomorrow, Thursday, June 21 at 11am for a free information session on opportunities in construction apprenticeships, including instructions on how to apply.

Where: Sparks JobConnect, 2281 Pyramid Way in Sparks
When: Thursday, June 21 at 11am
Cost: FREE

Call 775-284-9520 for more information.

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Eldorado Resorts criticized for hiring out-of-state contractor who used unlicensed subcontractors for Circus Circus remodel

Digney York Associates, a Virginia-based remodeling contractor, was cited for hiring unlicensed subcontractors to work on remodeling projects at Circus Circus in Reno. The company had also been cited by OSHA and the Nevada State Board of Contractors for safety violations—at least one of them serious. 

The incident highlights the ongoing rift between Northern Nevada building and construction unions and Eldorado Resorts as it rebrands its three downtown properties into a single mega-resort and entertainment complex called "The Row." 

Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 169 President Eloy La Jara criticized the resort for cutting corners at the expense of public safety, and Russ James, regional director of IUPAT District Council 16, took the resort to task for hiring cheap out-of-state contractors over local, highly-trained skilled labor.

Read more at the Reno Gazette-Journal

Reno's new and improved Traner Pool re-opens this week with help from community

After being out of commission for more than a year while crews repaired and improved equipment damaged last year by vandals, Traner Pool opened to much fan fare (and ice cream) this week. The improvements were made possible with help from a variety of organizations, including a $50,000 donation from the Northern Nevada Building & Construction Trades Council Development Corporation. 

  Members of Reno City Council and members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada present a $50,000 donation for the new Traner Pool on Carville Dr in Reno.

Members of Reno City Council and members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada present a $50,000 donation for the new Traner Pool on Carville Dr in Reno.

Improvements include new signage, more interactive features, accessibility improvements, better lighting, perimeter fencing, and a new security system. 

The Northern Nevada Building & Construction Trades Council Development Corporation owns nearby Carville Park Apartments, a low-income housing complex, and saw the Traner Pool rehabilitation as an opportunity to make an investment in the neighborhood.

"We wanted to help improve the Carville community," says Rob Benner, representative for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada. "This was a great way to give something to the kids in the neighborhood."

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