ROCKFORD (WREX) — Of the 100 people in the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union Local 23’s apprenticeship program, only six of them are women.
“Unfortunately the stigma is that construction is not for women,” Greg Harle, the training director for the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union Local 23 says.
But, the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 23 along with several other local unions say they are on a mission to break that stigma.
“When you don’t have the diversity necessary, you’re missing out literally on half of your population,” Jake Castanza with Project First Rate says.
Maria Gamez is one of those handful of women making her way through the plumbers and pipe fitters apprenticeship. She says she worked in an office for 8 years and decided a job behind the desk wasn’t for her. The union says it wants more people like Gamez to get involved, so it started changing how it recruits people into its program.
“I like the physical aspect of it,” Gamez says. “I grew up in a place where we were always outdoors, so that’s something that attracted me with construction.”
Some of those changes include physically putting more women on commercials and brochures. Project First Rate says it’s also changing how it sells those jobs to recruits by changing how it describe the jobs.
In the past, the group says it would talk about the physical labor. Now, it’s focusing on the training and skills it can provide to those women.
“Its a very autonomous work place that you need to be able to critically think, you need to be able to be a leader and you need to be able to follow,” Castanza says.
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