Skilled trades are, for the most part, a predominantly male bastion. But community and technical colleges in Minneapolis and St. Paul are ramping up their efforts to get more women into the trades industry. MinnPostreports:

Dunwoody College of Technology and Saint Paul College, for instance, have established scholarship, mentoring and networking programs to help women overcome some of the most common barriers to both entering and thriving in what have long been male-dominated occupations.

At Saint Paul College, those efforts include a recruitment strategy that involves organizing a twice-a-year event called Women in the Trades Sampler, where prospective students meet with faculty members and mentors to discover career options available in the industry.

Like Saint Paul College, Dunwoody has created new support initiatives tailored to recruit and train women for technical careers. Among them is the Women in Technical Careers (WITC) program, which was launched in 2015 to serve female students studying technical-related majors.

Both programs offer scholarships and support services (like childcare stipends and job placement assistance) to students who pursue training for a job in the trades.

The number of female students enrolled in Dunwoody and Saint Paul College’s technical programs have increased, but women are still underrepresented both in these programs and the trades workforce.

Why aren’t more women pursuing careers in the trades?

Rosie the Riveter inspired support for women and trade during World War II. Women stepped into the roles men had to leave when they went overseas, and they got ‘er done as welders, mechanics, and electricians. But when the war ended, the Rosies went back to their pre-war positions and men resumed their trade jobs. Despite proving her worth and abilities, Rosie was a woman in a man’s job.

We are still working on changing the cultural perception of women in trade industries. Despite making up nearly half of the United States workforce, women “make up just 30 percent of manufacturing employees, 9 percent of construction workers and only 6 percent of welders and equipment maintenance service workers.”

We are also working on changing the industry’s culture. These jobs are no longer “dark, dirty, and dangerous,” and they provide well-paying salaries (often without the pay disparity women experience in other job settings).

In Minnesota, the growing shortage of skilled workers is expected to explode from the current 60,000 to as much as 280,000 in the next five years. The trades industry desperately needs labor, and there’s a large untapped female population that could help with this.

Efforts like those at Dunwoody and Saint Paul College to present trades as positive career paths are vital to solving Minnesota’s workforce development crisis.

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