In an effort to attract more women to consider careers in construction and get them thinking about such opportunities at a younger age, IBEW Local 520 has partnered with two of its signatory contractors to sponsor a construction camp for middle school-age girls.
Camp NAWIC is a program supported by the National Association of Women in Construction. The week-long, free-of-charge camp in Austin is designed to give middle school girls a supportive space to express themselves and explore career paths in the construction industry by getting hands-on trade experience.
First-year campers learn foundational workplace safety lessons and how to use power tools properly. Campers will utilize these newfound skills during the week to construct concrete planters, lamps and dog houses that are donated to a local animal shelter.
Local IBEW 520 Vice President Marc Pendleton emphasized the program’s impact on campers and all women in the trades in a blog posted on the IBEW International Website.
“It is very important to our Sisters in the trade,” said Pendleton. “They are always great electricians.”
Pendleton has enjoyed visiting the camp, as he can provide support and inspirational words to the participants.
Joslana Thomas, president of the Rosendin Foundation, believes the seven-day camp can be a truly formative experience for the young girls that attend, as she stated in the same blog.
“A lot of girls are hesitant and shy at first because they’ve never touched tools before. And some are very petite – the tools are as tall as they are,” Thomas said. “But once they start working with the tools, their confidence increases to no bounds.”
“Without exposure through Camp NAWIC and other similar programs, girls who don’t have mothers or other female role models in their families who work in construction would not know that construction could be a viable career path for them,” Thomas said.
The Local’s efforts to promote a camp with such transformational weight toward welcoming women in the construction industry is a huge leap for recruitment into the trades.
The program offers middle school girls the opportunity to prospect the trades at a crucial time in their education and provides them with the reassurance that they are more than capable of success in the construction industry.
Out with the pink, in with the tools
Camp NAWIC is not one to be underestimated. Girls walk in with little to no experience in the trades and leave with adult-size tools, powerful wisdom, and valuable life skills that will open the door for many opportunities.
“To see a panel full of women, it’s awesome,” Thomas said. “I wish I’d seen stuff like that when I was young.”
The camp has been around since 2019 with many organizations across the country, exposing young girls to the trades – an opportunity most of them likely would never receive without Camp NAWIC.
“The camp is a great opportunity,” Pendleton said.
“If students go through these types of programs, it looks really good in their apprenticeship interview, and they’re more likely to get accepted.”
Camp NAWIC also offers interview tips and mentorship opportunities to ensure girls are unquestionably set up for success.