- Sponsorship -

Women in skilled trades hone skills, explore careers, network with industry experts


Camille Reed is a business owner who wants to learn more about the construction industry. Brenna Mosley is a 2018 East Kentwood High School graduate with a dream to run an architecture and construction firm. Serena Small is a stay-at-home mother pursuing a degree in construction management. Elma Balic is an architectural drafter who wants to get away from from her desk and into the field.

The women, all with different backgrounds and goals, are exploring careers in construction, engineering, design and skilled trades by visiting businesses, seeing fieldwork up close and getting into the driver’s seats of big machines. They are completing Project Accelerate, a seven-week, once-weekly course offered through The Build Initiative, a Pontiac-based program that works to build knowledge for women interested in construction and related fields.

Bridging the Talent Gap: To maintain a thriving economy, students need to be prepared for high-demand, well-paying jobs, yet there are currently more jobs than skilled workers to fill them. This series looks at how schools are preparing students for the future workforce.

(Courtesy photo) Women in Project Accelerate, pictured with an engineer, visit a worksite

“My goal is to get as much information about the industry as possible,” Mosley said.

Grand Rapids Community College is hosting the 10-woman cohort, the first for Grand Rapids, in space at the GRCC Leslie E.Tassell M-TEC. GRCC instructors lead sessions on carpentry and safety. Another cohort is planned for next fall.

“Our participants are entry level to CEO,” said Program Director Rita Brown, as participants attended a Friday session on construction law in a GRCC classroom. “What they have in common is they’re women and they want more knowledge. You can lead better with more knowledge, (and) you can learn better when you know where to get that knowledge.”

Women are networking, aligning talents and learning the scope of jobs available in the traditionally male-dominated fields, she said. They drove Caterpillar construction machines with help from Michigan CAT and Operating Engineers 324 representatives, read blueprints with an engineer from Soils and Structures and listened to speakers in the industry.

“This program is about gearing up; it’s about exposing strengths we didn’t even know we had, reinforcing areas that need to be reinforced,” said Brown, who relies on volunteers to run the program. “Not a single bit of this is about lack at all. This as about the fact that we can do it for ourselves. It’s about accelerating our careers.”

Julie Parks, GRCC executive director of workplace training, said GRCC is excited about the partnership and to bring women into the building who are involved in construction and related fields. “We have women in our skilled trade programs and this is a way to connect them with people in the industry,” she said.

GRCC is exploring ways to provide articulated credits for Project Accelerate experiences in the future. “What we are really trying to do is help find pathways,” Parks said.

Brenna Mosley, a 2018 East Kentwood High School graduate, is exploring careers in construction

Showing the Way for Women

Brown knows how to navigate the industry. She owns a steel detailing company and is the north central regional director for National Association of Women in Construction. She started Project Accelerate about six years ago after realizing the need. It also has cohorts in Detroit and Flint.

During the economic downturn, Brown had to downsize her staff. Her female employees were unsure of their next move.“The men seemed to be at least a little bit more sure of what they could possibly do, but the women were not as sure,” she said.

According to information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 9 percent of U.S. construction workers are women. Jobs are in high demand. According to West Michigan Works 2018 Hot Jobs list, jobs in construction are all projected to grow by at least 11 percent and as much as 22 percent by 2024.

Project Accelerate can help launch women into those jobs. “We are not trying to populate one single area of the industry. We are trying to make sure that women have the knowledge and opportunity to decide what their next best steps are,” Brown said. “From this program they will move to actual training programs, certification programs, degrees, jobs or will become better at the work they are already doing,” she said.

Participant Camille Reed, who co-owns a multi-service company that specializes in painting, carpentry and facilities management, said she wants to meet other professional women through Project Accelerate.

“For me, it’s the empowerment they are giving ladies to enter the construction field,” she said. She also was part of a Detroit cohort of Project Accelerate in June and July, and has learned everything from bricklaying, engineering, work-site development and road construction. “This is just giving me another insight of the construction field, and it gives me the change to network,” she said.

Serena Small, of Lansing, never considered a career in construction until she met Brown at a program called Women In Skilled Trades. She is currently enrolled at Lansing Community College majoring in construction management, which she knows will connect her to many different opportunities. She said Project Accelerate is another way to build her construction savvy.

“It’s opening my eyes to the construction industry as far as it’s not just manual labor. There are a lot of different careers in the construction industry,” Small said.

“This is definitely what I needed. I needed more information on the possibilities and the different careers that there are.”

CONNECT

Project Accelerate on YouTube

Labor Force Statistics

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

GRCC participates in study around product that could slow COVID spread

The inhaled mist device, developed by a FHPS and GRCC grad, could prove useful in schools...

Culinary, design departments partner to make chocolate violins

GRCC’s Mechanical and Architectural Design and Secchia Institute for Culinary Arts are partnering to use (literally) cutting-edge laser technology to create intricate molds for use in the Cake Decorating Basics course...

A promise for college fulfilled: ‘I’m so grateful’

This fall some 250 students are attending Grand Rapids Community College on a Promise Zone scholarship, including 160 from Grand Rapids Public Schools...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS