Chapter Corner

Pathway to Finding Women to Become Workers in the Electrical Industry

Posted in: Features, July 2013

Insights_ElecWmn.gifHow do you spark an interest in an electrical career to your audience? An effective presentation is a dynamic presentation that involves the audience. To quote William Glasser’s How We Learn Theory, individuals learn “20 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, 50 percent of what we see and hear, 70 percent of what we discuss, 80 percent of what we experience and 95 percent of what we teach others.” Out goes the lecture style of a presentation and in we bring the hands-on demonstration. Engage your audience in wiring a simple circuit so that they can flip a switch and turn the light on, to making a fluorescent light bulb glow while in the presence of the electromagnetic field of a plasma ball. No matter what the project is, make sure your audience is experiencing aspects within an electrical career (and while they are doing it, they are having fun).

How do we get the attention of the women in the audience? Bring women who work in the field with you to the presentation. Have them talk about their experiences in the trade and the reason why they love their career. If you are unable to have a tradeswoman join you for your presentation, an effective tool I have used is to ask the audience, particularly the women in the audience, one specific question: “If you are home alone and you have an issue where an electrician needs to come into your home to fix it, would you be more comfortable letting a strange man or a strange woman come into your home with you?” More times than not, you will hear them say “a  woman.”  Your audience has just demonstrated that there is a “need” for women in the electrical industry, especially the service sector.

Over the last decade we have been hearing that there is a shortage of skilled construction workers to fulfill the need in the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of electricians will grow 23 percent from 2010 to 2020. Between the individuals who are retiring from the industry and the lack of individuals making a career choice in the electrical field, who is going to fulfill this need?

One market for electrical companies to find employees is to recruit the women in the workforce. According to the 2010 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 691,000 electricians of which 10,400 were women, only 1.5 percent.

One answer to increasing the number of women in the electrical trades is through partnerships.  IEC Atlanta has been successful in building partnerships with other workforce development organizations.

Last year, IEC Atlanta partnered with the Goodwill Industries, Inc., of North Georgia in the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant program.  The WANTO program is designed to increase the number of women entering and remaining in apprenticeships associated with nontraditional occupations.

Each month, IEC Atlanta works with the women in the WANTO program to introduce them to a career in the electrical industry. Since the inception of the program last fall, IEC Atlanta has been successful in helping one participant find employment and start her apprenticeship training and another who is anticipated to start in the fall.

An additional partnership is through the local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). NAWIC’s National Education Foundation has programs designed to introduce school-aged children to construction careers. Their Block Kids program is a building program designed to introduce first through sixth grade students to the many aspects of the construction industry. NAWIC is always looking for volunteers to assist with their Block Kids program. NAWIC also has a CAD competition for high school-aged youth who can compete for scholarships.

Another program that many NAWIC chapters host is Mentoring A Girl In Construction (MAGIC) summer camp. MAGIC is a weeklong day camp designed to offer high school girls the opportunity to learn about the countless avenues of employment for women in the construction industry. The participants are engaged in hands-on training of basic skills of carpentry, electrical, and welding. Each camp is always looking for volunteers, sponsors, and mentors. Participants leave the camp knowing that they too can make a viable career out of construction.

Additionally, local school partnerships have a major impact. The key is to be active within your local school systems and join their academic advisory boards, participate in their career days, as well as partake in presentations to captive audiences. The only way this will work is to be active and engaged – they need to know who you are and that you care about their programs and their students. After all, their students are the future electricians who will be fulfilling the demands of the industry.

If there is one high school program that a construction firm should become involved in, it is the SkillsUSA program. To define SkillsUSA, I will quote it directly from its website (www.skillsusa.org): “SkillsUSA  is  a  partnership  of  students,  teachers and industry working together to ensure that America has a skilled workforce.” Whether it is on the local, state, or national level, there are many female students who are competing in the SkillsUSA construction competitions. They are ready to start working in the industry either through a school-to-apprenticeship program during their junior and senior year in high school or once they graduate. By being involved with SkillsUSA, the students in the program will remember who was involved and will contact you when they are looking to get into the workforce.

These are just a few of the many partnerships that IEC Atlanta has formed over the years. Each one is unique but all have one common denominator, help identify individuals, and especially the women, who want to work in the electrical industry.

Lana Frye is the Workforce Developer for the Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc. Atlanta  & Georgia Chapters. She has over 16 years of experience working with construction apprenticeship programs. Prior to working with apprenticeships she was a Secondary Education teacher teaching Middle School Math and Science.