A member of San Diego Local 569 works on a 26-megawatt solar installation in 2012. More and more women are entering the building trades, but it's still not enough. National Women in Apprenticeship Day aims to help bridge the gap.

Women make up nearly half the U.S. workforce, but they account for less than 3 percent of the construction trade. 

That’s why National Women in Apprenticeship Day, held on Nov. 16 as part of National Apprenticeship Week, is so important.

“The U.S. economy is facing a huge skilled worker shortage – especially in construction,” said Director of Civic and Community Engagement Carolyn Williams. “It’s more important than ever that we get women into the construction trades. We can’t fix the gap without them.”

Williams, who joined Atlanta Local 613 in 1978, was one of the first women in her local’s apprenticeship program at a time when seeing a woman on a construction site was as rare as a four-leaf clover. “There are a lot more women in construction and the building trades today than when I first started,” she said. “But it is still not enough.”

According to employment data:

  • Apprentices earn more than $50,000 on average after completing their studies and make approximately $300,000 more over their lifetime than their peers who don’t participate in a registered apprenticeship. 

  • For women in nontraditional apprenticeships, such as construction, the difference is even more stark. They will earn approximately $1.2 million more than if she worked in a typical “female” job, like childcare worker or waitress.

  • Women make up just 6 percent of all apprentices, and just 3 percent in higher-wage fields like construction. Increasing that number is an opportunity to increase financial security for women and their families.

  • 90 percent of those who complete apprenticeships enter and sustain employment.

  • Apprenticeship is also good for the nation’s economy. For every $1 invested in registered apprenticeship programs, the public returns approximately $28 in benefits.

Williams said statistics show nearly 70 percent of contractors in 2016 reported having a hard time filling jobs, and with 74 million working women in America today, the opportunity is ripe for more women in the trades.

“These are good-paying jobs,” she said. “We must make a concerted effort – unions, employers and lawmakers – to let women know about opportunities in the trades.”

On National Women in Apprenticeship Day, organizers are encouraging women in the trades to post photos and personal stories to social media using the hashtags #WomenInApprenticeship and #Tradeswomen to raise awareness.

The Electrical Worker has written extensively about women in the electrical industry. Read a few of those stories here: