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Grants for Apprenticeships Could Boost Women in Construction featured image

Grants for Apprenticeships Could Boost Women in Construction

Federal grants are available to help train women in nontraditional skills and provide ongoing information to employers and unions that create an environment where women of all backgrounds can succeed in their chosen career fields.

Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations, or WANTO, a U.S. Department of Labor program, has grants available to help expand these pathways for women. It will offer up to 10 grants totaling $3.5 million to increase and retain women in “quality” Registered Apprenticeship Programs.

Occupations in these programs include those in construction, energy, transportation, and more. According to WANTO, “Many of the nation’s most recognizable companies have effectively integrated apprenticeship into their workforce development strategy. Explore industries to learn more about success stories of occupations companies are leveraging in apprenticeship and to access valuable resources.”

Women who take advantage of apprenticeship programs are in a better position to support themselves and their families and, at the same time, acquire training and work experience to build their credentials. Getting into an apprenticeship program also helps women avoid getting saddled with the debt that comes with a four-year college degree.

Today, only one in 10 or one in 12 apprentices are women, depending on the data used.

The underrepresentation of women is even more pronounced in the construction trades, even though two-thirds of all federally registered apprenticeship programs are in those trades. Moreover, it is a fact that workers who complete apprenticeship programs in construction trades have higher earnings than those in other occupations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the need to create high-quality job opportunities for women. During the crisis, women’s unemployment has skyrocketed. Those who retained their jobs, for the most part, are still in low-paying positions with no benefits. The WANTO grants program has been at work trying to turn this trend around since the 1990s.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, some regions are doing much better attracting and retaining female workers. Some examples include ANEW in Seattle, Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) in New York, Oregon Tradeswomen (OTW), Chicago Women in the Trades (CWIT), and West Virginia Women Work.

Unions are tackling pregnancy and maternity leave, as well as the need for childcare. This is helping. In New York City, women now account for 11% of apprentices, 9.2% in Massachusetts, 5.5% in West Virginia, and 7.5% in Oregon.

As part of the WANTO program, Registered Apprenticeships offer women a path to the middle class and, at the same time, support community-based organizations to recruit and retain women in Registered Apprenticeships and nontraditional occupations.

To apply for a WANTO grant, applicants must provide at least one of the following:

·      Support groups that facilitate networking and provide support services for women to improve retention rates

·      Ongoing orientations for employers, unions, and workers creating a thriving environment for women seeking to rise in their career choice

·      Development of pre-apprenticeship programs, Registered Apprenticeships, or nontraditional skills training programs that are designed to prepare women for their careers in construction or other fields

Since women make-up nearly half of the U.S. workforce but account for only 10-12% of Registered Apprentices, the WANTO grant program seeks to address the under-representation of women in apprenticeships and high-growth, high-wage fields as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math-related occupations. Those fields also align with the needs of today’s changing construction industry.

The National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment states that apprenticeships are more than just a career pathway. They can also be an adventure offering excellent benefits, including a solid retirement plan and free industry training along the way.

These apprenticeships require women with willpower, grit, dedication, and physical agility. Those who aspire to become tradespeople will reap the rewards with excellent wages and jobs available across the country. And these apprenticeships are not just for college-age women. Anyone 18 years or older, including many women returning to the workforce, considering a career change, or looking to make more money, can benefit from apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships for most skilled trades do require a high school diploma or GED.

For those looking to improve their skills, a pre-apprenticeship might be the best path. In addition to providing basic skills training, many of these programs also work directly with registered apprenticeship programs to make access easier. However, pre-apprenticeship programs typically require a time commitment of one to three months. In addition, they are not typically paid positions, though some may offer a small stipend during training.

While the WANTO grants application period is closed for 2021, it expects to reopen for 2022 for community-based organizations.

Recipients of these WANTO grants for FY 2020 were not eligible this year but will be eligible to reapply in 2022. Former grantees must explain in their “Statement of Need” what different programs they will offer to make them eligible for more grant money. The activities must be materially different but can build on past performance activities that strengthen their programs.

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John Kenney has over 45 years’ experience in the roofing industry. John started his career by working as a roofing apprentice at a family business in the Northeast to operating multiple Top 100 Roofing Contractors. As Chief Operating Officer, John is intimately familiar with all aspects of roofing production, estimating, and operations. During his tenure in the Industry, John ran business units associated with delivering excellent workmanship and unparalleled customer service while ensuring his company’s strong net profits before joining Cotney Consulting Group. If you would like any further information on this or another subject, you can contact John at