The U.S. is facing a shortage of skilled tradespeople and skilled workers who have completed vocational training programs. This is due in part to a focus on encouraging students to pursue bachelor’s degrees that has been prevalent for several decades, NPR reports. Women also remain a minority in the fields of Mechanical, Industrial, Technical and Trades (MITT). Tools & Tiaras is an initiative focusing on empowering girls to explore these fields and “making intentional changes about the way we view and portray what constitutes ‘women work.’”
Only about eight percent of U.S. undergraduate students are enrolled in certificate programs, where the majority vocational training is accessed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The DOE also shares that individuals with career and technical education are much more likely to be working in their fields of study and somewhat more likely to be employed in general.
There are 30 million jobs in the U.S. that don’t call for bachelor’s degrees that pay in the range of $55,000. Tradespeople tend to be some of the oldest workers in the job market, which means shortages may continue to grow. Skilled trades have high potential for young job seekers and pay about $20.35 hourly with a high school diploma and around $22.27 with a specialized certificate, labor market data company Esmi states.
In some cases, local companies who need skilled tradespeople are teaming up with colleges to fund training initiatives. For example, California Steel put $2 million into Chaffey College’s InTech Center.
“It was the right thing to do for our community. The selfish reason was because we needed craft workers and it was inconvenient to send them elsewhere,” Human Resources Manager Rod Hoover says.
Men continue to fill a majority of jobs in MITT. In 2013, more than 98 percent of mechanics were male. In 2016, women accounted for 9.1 percent of the construction industry in the U.S. and in 2017, 3 percent of welders are women. In 2010, 1.5 percent of the 553,000 workers in the plumbing trade were women.
Judaline Cassidy, the founder and director of Tools & Tiaras, is a plumber -- one of the first three women accepted to pursue Plumbing at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, the first women accepted into the Plumbers Local Union 371 in Staten Island, New York, and the first woman elected on the Examining Board of Plumbers Local Union No One. The Tools & Tiaras site explains that, “She cares deeply for her fellow sisters in the trades and servers as a mentor and big sister to anyone that needs her stewardship.”
Tools & Tiaras is a nonprofit that aims to make sure occupational choices such as becoming a carpenter, electrician, plumber or mechanic are “accessible and approachable” for girls. It focuses on exposure, inspiration and guided mentoring to achieve this goal and its programming includes hands-on projects in these fields at summer camps, careers workshops and conferences.
The organization launched at the 2017 Makers Conference, which celebrates and nourishes female voices and empowerment, and at which Judaline Cassidy was a featured speaker. The Tools & Tiaras website calls on visitors to become a volunteer, mentor, donor or teacher with the group, saying, “Our future Tradeswomen warriors needs your assistance … WE CAN DO IT!"