Providing Research and Technical Assistance to Union Construction Partners on Recruiting and Retaining Tradeswomen

PGTI Logo 6.29.15A regional collaboration of construction industry stakeholders crushing the barriers to good jobs for women in the construction trades. We offer customized Technical Assistance for contractors, apprenticeship programs, enforcement agencies and any other stakeholders who need help in increasing their women apprentices, members and employees. To set up a workshop or receive more information email us here.
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Women in Apprenticeship hold steady at 9.5%, but for how long?

Massachusetts currently has the one of the highest statewide percentages of women in union apprenticeship at 9.5%. This is due to an increased focus on bringing in diverse new workers to meet hiring goals on MA projects. Many union apprenticeships have been bringing in more women each year, with larger programs, such as IBEW 103, welcoming 29 new women apprentices in 2019.

And then there was 2020. Since business as usual shut down in March 2020, apprenticeship classes and recruitment have been put on hold. As work and training ramps back up, we see many in industry being cautious about recruitment of new workers, diverse or otherwise. Right now, MA apprenticeship programs are holding steady at 9.5% women, but for how long? In order to sustain our progress through this trying time and beyond, we need to make sure that women, and our commitments to diversifying the building trades, are not left behind. We’ve seen the numbers drop significantly on some projects since the pandemic hit.  We cannot allow the challenges of the pandemic to take our focus off diversity, and we must continue to push contractors to diversify their core crews, and start every job with a diverse workforce.

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As you can see in the graph above, our integrated supply and demand strategy has worked to increase the number of women in apprenticeship each year, leveling off between 2019-20. We believe the trend has leveled, in part, because women who complete their apprenticeship and are continuing their careers as journeywomen are no longer counted in the apprenticeship figures.

However, there is no denying the significant impacts that COVID-19 will have on employment of the construction workplace, particularly for vulnerable and minority groups like women, apprentices, and Black and Brown workers. In regard to COVID safety, most Union General Contractors have set up policies to make the sites as safe as possible, but enforcement is difficult and can vary among sites and crews. Many construction workers still do not feel safe going to work, and this safety fear can have a disparate impact among women workers who may have more caretaking responsibilities for elderly or children. Normal barriers that face tradeswomen, including childcare, and sexism, are compounded by COVID workplace safety concerns and and COVID related school and daycare shutdowns.

The topic of race, once glossed over in pursuit of “colorblindness,” is now an open discussion topic in the American workplace. For those holding innate racist thoughts, or those unaccustomed to addressing race in a sensitive way, this heightened dialogue can include statements that are racist and abusive. Over the past few months, Black tradeswomen have reported being subject to slurs, physical assaults and other forms of harassment at work. The veil on racism has been lifted, and the bottom line is that women of color are simply not safe on job sites where anti-racism and anti-sexism education and training is not taking place.

We can help. PGTI/NCTE is hosting a webinar on September 16 that will touch on all of these issues, but “there is no silver bullet.” Just like it took multi-stakeholder collaboration to move the needle and get women into apprenticeship, we need stakeholders from all sides, including contractors, unions, apprenticeship programs, government entities and project owners, to invest in access to work in the trades for women and people of color for the long haul.

Here a few tangible things that must be done to retain the diverse workers we have worked so hard to recruit:

  • Don’t bring back women and people of color last; get women onto sub-contractors core crews.
  • Make sure you put in maximum effort to ensure a COVID safer workplace.
  • Take an active, public stand against racism on your jobsites.
  • Check in with your diverse apprentice and workers. These are hard times for everyone!
  • Spread the word about childcare resources.

For a deeper dive into the some of the barriers, and solutions, to tradeswomen retention, join us for this webinar:

“Retention of Tradeswomen in the Time of Viruses: COVID-19 and Racism,”

Wednesday, September 16 from 4 – 5:30

 The webinar will address:

Lack of work / Demand strategies

Lack of childcare / Care That Works

Heightened racial dialogues / Needed action steps

COVID-19 safety concerns / Tools for addressing COVID-safety challenges onsite

It will include stakeholder specific breakout room discussions for:

Rank and File Members, Apprenticeship & Union Staff, Contractors & End Users and Pre-Apprenticeships & Community Based Organizations.

Register here:

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PGTI Disparity Study proves women are available and willing to enter the trades in Central MA

On August 2, the Worcester Sunday Telegram published an article supporting greater diversity in the construction trades. The three authors, a leader in the Carpenters Union and two union contractors, point to PGTI’s Worcester Workforce Disparity Study to document the the low numbers of women and people of color who are currently working in the trades across the region. That study also proved that the diverse workforce is available. As the authors describe, “In Worcester, several projects are modeling commitments to access and equity in construction.” These include the Polar Ballpark, a new courthouse and the Central Massachusetts YMCA. These model projects are succeeding because they have made the commitment to diversity and are applying Best Practices for hiring and retaining women and people of color.

Included in the authors’ action steps is:

“Eliminate race and gender pay gaps among the trade’s workforce, and ensure living wages and benefits are paid by using union contractors who pay every worker equally according to their apprentice or journey-level. Fair, living wages bring additional consumer spending power and broader economic benefit to our communities at a time when it is even more needed.”

Keep it up, Worcester and the Central Mass unions!

A downloadable copy of the article is available here.

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20 Percent NOW: IUOE Local 98 leads with 27.6% women apprentices in 2020

Happy 20 Percent Day!

This month, we are showcasing IUOE Operating Engineers Local 98 out of Western MA. With 27.6% women in their apprenticeship program, they currently hold the spot for the highest percentage of women apprentices in the state.

Way to go, IUOE Local 98! Let’s keep pushing beyond 20% toward a more equitable workforce.

#20percentday Local 98

women98On this crew of Local 98 Operating Engineers, woman celebrate being in the majority!  #20percentandBEYOND#20percentNOW

About 20% Day

Throughout this year, we are highlighting programs and projects that have reached, exceeded or increased women’s participation by 20% on “Twenty Percent Day,” a social media campaign in which we will release a new statistic that meets or exceeds 20% to showcase progress of PGTI’s labor, apprenticeship and contractor partners.

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20 Percent NOW: Mass Girls In Trades

Happy 20% Day.

Today, it’s all about the girls, specifically, Massachusetts Girls in Trades. For the 2019-20 school year, 19.7% of all students enrolled CTE construction-related programs are female. This is no small feat, as the percentage of women in the trades nationwide hovers at 3%.

In Massachusetts CTE schools, more female students are choosing construction-related programs every year. Female participation soars above the 20% female mark in programs like Sheet Metalworking (50%) and Painting and Design Tech (87.6%) for the 2019-20 year. In these so-called “non-traditional” trade programs, women are no longer the minority.2012-2020 trend in construction related programsThe significant gains toward equity in the CTE schools are due in large part to the work of a Massachusetts Girls in Trades, (MAGIT). MAGIT was launched in 2015 by leaders from Minuteman Regional Vocational​ Technical High School, the MA Building Trades, and Encore Boston Harbor. MAGIT now includes over 50 industry partners including unions, contractors and government agencies, and has engaged hundreds of girls from 41 CTE schools statewide with regional conferences, career fairs, and ​the Equity in Trades ​Student Leadership Council. Enrollment in construction-related programs at CTE schools increased accordingly, from 15% in 2014 to 19.7% in 2020, essentially meeting our goal of 20% by 2020.

The girls in construction-related programs in our Massachusetts CTE schools are the PIPELINE OF THE FUTURE. With hands-on skills, and interest in the trades, they provide a shovel-ready labor pool; a no-brainer answer to the impending labor shortage when the aging construction workforce retires.

We congratulate MAGIT’s steering committee and advisory committee members and all of the active partners who have invested in the next generation of trade workers.

#20percentby2020 #20percentNOW

About 20% Day

2020 is a benchmark  year for the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues. PGTI set a goal of 20% women in the trades by 2020, a high target intended to spur progress, after years of minimal progress under more moderate goals. Throughout this year, we are highlighting programs and projects that have reached, exceeded or increased by 20%.

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20 Percent NOW: In MA, growth of six union apprenticeship programs exceeds 20%

 Apprenticeship Program WomenQ4  2018 WomenQ4  2019 Percent increase
Roofers Local 33 9 16 77.7%
Pipefitters Local 537 10 16 60%
Elevator Constructors Local 41 2 3 50%
Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 14 19 35.7%
Boston Electricians Local 103 85 114 34%
Plumbers Local 12 27 35 29.6%

2020 is a benchmark year for the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues. We set a goal of 20% by 2020, a high target intended to spur progress, after years of minimal progress under more moderate goals.

PGTI’s strategy of aiming high, implementing industry-informed best practices, and integrating supply and demand for diverse workers has more than moved the needle: from 2012 to present, the percent of women in MA union apprenticeship programs has increased every year. Today the percentage of women exceeds 20 percent in two union apprenticeships:  the Boston Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 534 (21.9%) and the Hoisting and Portable Engineers Local 98 in Western MA (27.3%). Currently, 9.5% of all union apprentices in Massachusetts are women. 

2019 Q4 Current demographics of women and minority participants in Registered Apprenticeship Programs in Massachusetts front page

From 2018-2019,  six apprenticeship programs increase their count of women by 20% or more. The licensed trades made key and significant gains: Pipefitters Local 537 increased by 60%, IBEW Local 103 by 34% and Plumbers Local 12 by 29.6%,

#20PercentNOW: Share your 20% achievements

Throughout this year, we will be highlighting programs and projects that have reached, exceeded or increased by 20% on “Twenty Percent Day,” a social media campaign in which we will release a new 20% statistic regularly to showcase progress of PGTI’s labor, apprenticeship and contractor partners.  If you have a 20% achievement that you would like PGTI to highlight on “Twenty Percent Day,” please email us at



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