By Frank Callahan – President, Massachusetts Building Trades Council
Apr 17, 2019
If you were near TD Garden last fall and looked up about 200 feet, there’s a good chance you saw Heather Daly. She operated the crane above The Hub on Causeway.
Heather traded her low-paying office job for the chance to build the city’s skyline and a meaningful career in the union building trades. And while her story is remarkable, it isn’t unique.
Thanks to major union-backed initiatives like Build a Life MA, a growing number of women across the commonwealth are helping to drive the region’s building boom. And our efforts are paying off: 93.5 percent of women in construction are getting their start through union-run apprenticeship programs, where they can continue to earn a salary while learning a new trade.
The union building trades also provide a pathway to a rewarding career, with industry-leading wages and benefits, free training and skills development, the highest safety standards, and opportunities for advancement.
That’s a big reason why when it comes to women working in the trades, Massachusetts is leading the nation.
In Massachusetts, the percentage of women in union apprenticeship programs is almost triple the national average of women in the construction workforce.
For Heather Daly, having a great, middle-class job with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4 has allowed her to buy a home, and to send her daughter to college. It’s also meant finally having the peace of mind that comes with a stable, rewarding career.
Thanks to stories like Heather’s, the word is getting out and women are beginning to think about the union trades as an attractive option. Women become construction workers for the same reasons that men do. The union construction trades pay very well, between $60,000 to $100,000 a year, and provide excellent family-sustaining benefits including health care and a dignified retirement.
Some women may hesitate to consider the union trades as a career as they may feel they lack the experience. Previous experience is great, but it’s not required. Our programs are specifically designed to train industry newcomers to become skilled craftspeople. Learning is done both on the job and through classroom training.
Over the last couple of years, Massachusetts has seen a 107 percent increase in the number of female apprenticeships. Expanding opportunities isn’t just the right thing to do morally — it’s a smart business model. Massachusetts’ building trades and construction contractors have recognized that that there is a tight labor market with an estimated need for more than 43,000 new construction workers. The solution is training and employment for those who have been historically underrepresented, and those who need these good careers now. Industry leaders know that providing a diverse skilled workforce helps grow their market share. The number of tradeswomen across the state has tripled since 2012 and we should be proud of this as it’s a sign of progress. And we’ll continue to create pathways of opportunity so more women like Heather join our ranks.
Frank Callahan is the president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council