Women only make up 10 percent of the labor force in construction, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But as construction labor shortages become more pressing, one industry group is tackling both problems with one swoop.
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) has expanded its Construction Camp for Girls to Austin this year to spread more awareness about job opportunities in the industry to young girls.
“The purpose of the camp is to educate female students about opportunities in the field of construction and to recruit for our future workers and leaders,” says Taryn Ritchie, president of the Austin chapter of NAWIC. “We started in this Camp in Austin to give them hands-on experience and to inform about the many roles that they can choose in the construction industry.”
June 10-14 marked the first NAWIC camp in Austin, where 13 girls in 7th, 8th and 9th grades gathered for hands-on learning experiences within the construction industry.
NAWIC holds similar camps for girls in San Diego; Kansas City, Missouri; Baltimore; Chicago; and Orange County, California. The camp garners a couple hundred participants a year, most of whom hail from San Diego.
Austin’s camp had several sponsors who provided financial support and interactive activities, including Rosendin of San Jose, California; UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 286 of Austin; and the Austin chapter of the Associated General Contractors, among others.
During the camp, girls had the chance to listen to speakers from different sectors of construction, including roofing, plumbing, electrical and carpentry. They also worked on a variety of hands-on projects, including designing and pouring concrete planters, wiring a lamp, and assembling and painting a community library.
The girls also took a field trip to Rosendin’s new office in Pflugerville, Texas. There, the campers learned basic electrical skills, participated in augmented reality viewing through virtual reality headgear to understand how buildings are built, and spoke with female employees about construction careers ranging from installing conduit to computer modeling.
“What many people don’t realize is the construction industry is going high-tech,” says Claire Acquilano, Rosendin building information modeler. “If you are willing to learn and have the right attitude, Rosendin will train you for a great career.”
Many students pick their career path in middle school, yet many girls never consider construction or specialty trades because they rarely see women in the fields. Camp NAWIC was designed to inspire campers to challenge bias that prevents women from seeking jobs in traditionally male-dominated industries.
“Women are an untapped resource for the construction labor shortage that we are facing,” Ritchie says. “Companies that hire diverse teams in all facets report better performance, enhanced innovation, increased creativity and, most importantly, increased revenue.”