The world is undeniably evolving. And as we progress, traditional occupations and expectations within the workforce are changing, too. The days of should-be’s and gender roles are a thing of the past.
Since World War II, when women overtook the jobs that men left behind, women have established their rightful place within the workforce as valuable employees. Rosie the Riveter paved the way, but we still have more ground to cover to reach workplace equality.
Women make up almost half of the workforce in the United States, but they’re vastly underrepresented within the skilled trade fields. As we’ll discuss, there’s never been a better time for them to enter these rewarding fields.
In this article, we’ll talk about women in trade careers, some of the most in-demand skilled trades today, and how education can help you get your foot in the door.
Why Are Skilled Trades Excellent Career Choices for Women?
Skilled trades are excellent career choices for women for the same reasons they’re excellent career choices for men.
While there are pre-conceived notions about the skilled trades industries being for burly men, it just isn’t the truth. Employers are looking for highly-skilled workers who know what they’re doing, and women are equally capable as men to fill the positions.
The skilled trades industry is an exciting career path for several reasons, including:
- Job Security: Unlike some careers, skilled trades will always be in demand — the jobs in these sectors help build and maintain the foundations of modern infrastructure.
- Less Schooling: The time it takes to enter the workforce as an educated and sought-after tradeswoman can be much less than other career paths, and salaries within the skilled trades industry are comparable to others that require a four-year degree from a well-recognized university. A shorter education period means less time spent in the classroom and a better chance of keeping student loan debt to a minimum.
- Upward Mobility: Does learning a skilled trade mean you’ll be doing the same job for your entire career? It doesn’t have to. There’s plenty of room within the specialized trade industry for upward mobility. Of course, some sectors have more room for movement than others, but opportunities for management and supervisory positions are common throughout many skilled trade occupations. Just because the education period is shorter and more affordable doesn’t mean you can’t potentially reach a six-figure salary.
- Trades Are Interesting: If you don’t like the idea of working in a cubicle and enjoy working with your hands in a fast-paced environment, a skilled trade could be the right career for you. Every day on the job can be different, as well as challenging. But if you thrive in a workplace like that, it can be a rewarding career path.
- Shortage of Skilled-Trade Employees: There is currently a shortage of skilled trades workers in the United States, and employers are eager for qualified candidates. A majority of the workers in the skilled-trades industries today are middle-aged and nearing the end of their career, which will only increase the demand. So, how will employers fill these positions? They’re looking to the underrepresented female population. Women are especially valuable assets because diversity in the workplace is essential for a well-rounded company. Different viewpoints and alternative ideas make for excellent results — companies with a diverse work environment outperform those with a limited demographic.
Women in the Trades — by the Numbers
Aside from medical, culinary and cosmetology jobs, women are far from the dominant population in the skilled trades industries. They represent just 8.9 percent of the workforce in the construction industry.
Strong women all over the United States are supporting their household, yet gender inequality is still rampant in the workplace. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, women make only 80.2 percent of what men earn in the United States. What does that mean for their work life and earnings? A woman has to work an average of four months more per year to make the same as a man working the same job.
While this inequality is present in almost all sectors, in skilled trades industries, the salary gap is significantly lower — women make around 94 percent of what their male counterparts take home. Amid growing construction demand, up to 70 percent of employers are having difficulty finding qualified employees for their projects — according to the Associated General Contractors of America. So, there’s never been a better time for women to enter these fields.
Associations to Help Women Enter Skilled Trades
Due to the barriers to entry in traditionally male-dominated trades, many national and state organizations have formed to help women enter the workforce.
Professional Women in Construction (PWC) is a national nonprofit founded in 1980 to advance and support women within architecture, engineering and construction industries. Their goal is to help women enter these fields and promote workplace diversity.
The U.S. government has also allocated funding to support programs and grants for women entering skilled trade professions. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor gave $1.4 million to the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) program, which funds community-based programs to help women enter these fields.
WANTO helps employers and unions create environments in which women are accepted and have equal opportunity to succeed. They also create support groups and networking opportunities to reinforce the active community of women already working in the industry.
The U.S. government will sometimes award grants to women seeking an education so they may enter non-traditional occupation fields. These programs can be competitive, so there is no guarantee of receiving aid. However, if you qualify for a grant, it will only help kickstart your career. Programs such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could also offer financial help to those who need it.
Scholarship opportunities may be available through associations such as the American Association of University Women, as well. Established in 1881, they strive to bolster the number of women in industries traditionally dominated by men.
Women are not alone when entering nontraditional careers — support is available.
The Best Trade Careers for Women
Here at Vista College, we offer several skilled-trade programs that prepare you to seek employment in the workforce. Earning your Diploma will give you an edge over other candidates who don’t have official training, and it shows employers you’re committed to their industry. The following are the seven trades we offer that would be perfect for any woman looking to start a career in the skilled-trade industry.
1. Construction Technology
Today’s construction industry is an exciting and evolving sector. A shift toward greener construction practices and material usage means that those entering the construction workforce with training in current techniques have an advantage.
What will you do as a construction technician? Some responsibilities may include:
- Interpreting construction drawings
- Performing professional-quality concrete and brickwork
- Framing walls, ceilings, and floors
- Installing wiring and piping for electrical and plumbing systems
Construction technology covers a broad array of exciting careers in the construction industry, and you can work all over the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor expects the demand for construction laborers will grow by 12 percent by the year 2026, which means an additional 180,500 new jobs nationally.
2. Construction Management
For those looking to climb the ladder in the world of construction technology, the Vista College AAS in Construction Management degree program prepares you for entry-level positions in the construction industry while also training you in construction management and building inspection.
In addition to the fundamentals of construction technology, a construction manager must be able to:
- Apply sustainable design and green building practices
- Interpret and follow building and safety codes
- Manage a construction crew
3. Electrical Technician
If you have interest in becoming an apprentice electrician, our Electrical Technician diploma program provides the training necessary to help you stand out from the rest. It’s a competitive process to become an electrical mechanic, but with a combination of hands-on and in-class training, you’ll learn the essential skills employers want.
An electrical technician typically has the following responsibilities:
- Reading and interpreting blueprints
- Applying knowledge of electrical concepts
- Installing electrical systems
- Performing proper electronic repairs
Our Electrical Technician program is competitive, and our administrators look for applicants who are committed to pursuing a career as a journeyman or master electrician. If you have the drive and dedication to learn the trade, then our program could give you the advantage you need in this competitive sector.
Our Electrical Technician diploma program is certified by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, which means our students who graduate earn industry-recognized credentials and have their exam scores entered into the NCCER Registry.
4. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technician
As our population grows, the demand for skilled technicians for heating, ventilation, and refrigeration grows, too. According to the Bureau of Labor, the need for HVAC technicians and specialists in the U.S. will increase by 15 percent over the next 10 years, which is much faster than the average job.
With the push toward green solutions and infrastructure, people and businesses are looking for qualified technicians who know how to handle refrigerants in compliance with EPA regulations. This means employers need technicians who understand the best practices and stay up-to-date as new technology and best practices evolve.
What does an HVAC technician do? Typical tasks include:
- HVAC system installation
- HVAC system maintenance and diagnosis
- Safe HVAC system removal
- HVAC system repair
- HVAC installation for appliance dealers
- Evaluating and recommending HVAC equipment
Our NCCER-certified HVAC program prepares you to be a well-rounded, valuable asset to any company. Our graduating students gain access to benefits like industry-recognized third-party credentials through the NCCER. Your performance and exam scores are even available for review by potential employers looking for qualified candidates.
5. HVAC Professional
While employers are increasingly looking for qualified HVAC technicians, they’re also looking for professionals with adequate business knowledge. As an HVAC professional, you’re expected to multi-task, problem solve, and make well-informed decisions, as well as have the skills to work with HVAC systems and equipment.
In addition to the technical projects, what does an HVAC Professional do? Typical duties include:
- Brazing — joining metal
- Financial analysis
- Employee management
- Sheet metal fabrication
Our Associate of Applied Sciences in Trades Management – HVAC program equips students with the technical skills needed to succeed as an HVAC technician and also covers essential business management skills to advance your career.
6. Industrial Maintenance Mechanic
As an industrial maintenance mechanic, you’ll work with a wide variety of small and large equipment. Companies need highly-trained mechanics who are up-to-date with the most current technology and maintenance procedures. Workers in this field need excellent technical knowledge, as well as excellent communication skills to recommend when it’s time to buy new equipment and replace old capital. In this role, you’re responsible for some of a company’s most valuable assets.
An industrial mechanic:
- Conducts investigations to diagnose mechanical problems
- Installs, maintains, and repairs equipment
- Inspects equipment
- Advises companies about purchases of equipment and machinery
Our course prepares you for a rewarding career as an Industrial Maintenance Mechanic and covers vital subjects like industrial plant and production machinery installation, repair, and fabrication.
While we don’t currently offer a welding program, it is one of the most in-demand skilled trades, and employers are eager for skilled workers. It’s a quickly growing field for women seeking to enter the skilled trade occupations — the American Welding Society predicts a national shortage of more than 200,000 employees by the year 2020.
Some typical duties of a welder include:
- Fabricating and joining metal parts
- Mastering the various welding machines and when to use them
- Studying and interpreting blueprints and project specifications
- Inspecting materials before welding
- Monitoring for overheating
- Properly maintaining welding equipment
Welders can work in a variety of different industries, and becoming a welder can turn into an exciting and rewarding career.
About Vista College
At Vista College, we want to see everyone succeed, and it makes us proud to train qualified women to enter skilled trade industries. We take pride in knowing we’re helping female professionals take one more step toward equal representation in the workplace. While equality may still be a ways off, every woman who challenges occupational tradition is taking a step in the right direction.
If you’re considering entering the trades but aren’t sure about your first move, getting an education is an excellent way to start. We take pride in knowing our graduating students have the knowledge and skills to excel in their industry. If you’re already working, furthering your education may give you the insight you need to take your career to the next level.
Our programs start every five weeks and have flexible schedules, which makes it easy to start at a convenient time for you. Industry experts and professionals designed every course we offer, and they all have a passion for their trade. Modest classroom sizes mean you get the attention and one-on-one time that is essential for retention. We also offer lifetime career assistance to help you search for a rewarding career.