Labor

Booming Skilled Trades Are Ready for More Women

Monday, September 1, 2014

For Labor Day, Audrey Clark offers a look at four building trades that all promise strong growth and good pay. For women it's no longer flying too high to think of a high-paying job in, for instance, aviation mechanics.

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Female electrician
 
Credit: yooperann on Flickr, under Creative Commons

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(WOMENSENEWS)--Traditionally, skilled trade occupations like plumbers, electricians and mechanics have been dominated by men.

Sexism has unfortunately played a significant part in that, as women were generally supposed to be unable to do these jobs due to either a lack of interest or lack of overall strength and prowess that would be required in that field.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has identified five major barriers women face, for example, in blue-collar transportation careers: lack of information about these occupations; difficult, male-dominated work culture; lack of family support while working in these strenuous positions; lack of basic skills due to little exposure to adequate personal and educational experiences; and lack of reliable transportation and tools to perform job duties effectively.

While these issues certainly apply, things may be brightening in the skilled trades, which actually offer great career opportunities for women. Demand is strong now and qualified women are increasingly sought after in this sector. These four well-paying trades offer real promise to women, who dominate the low-wage workforce.

Aviation Mechanics

As U.S. women have become more integrated in the military over the past few decades, a growing number have been trained in aviation mechanics. After their time in the military, many of these servicewomen have gone to work for various airlines, making the field increasingly women-friendly. To become an aviation mechanic you will need to be certified by the FAA, meaning you will have to complete 1,900 class hours at an FAA-approved training school. Aviation mechanics typically earn at least $20,000 more than the median wage for all other occupations, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moreover, many aviation mechanics also pursue further degrees in avionics or aviation maintenance management, which can increase their earning potential significantly.

Plumber

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters to grow 21 percent by 2022, especially in the booming construction industry. Tulsa Welding School points out that while women only make up 2.5 percent of workers in construction, their numbers are rising sharply.

Plumbing and pipefitting will require training through a vocational school program or an apprenticeship. Afterwards, a woman can be licensed in her state. The top 10 percent of plumbers make as much as 10 times minimum wage per hour they are on a job, making it a potentially very lucrative skilled trade career.

Electrician

Employment of electricians is slated to grow 20 percent by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost twice as much as the average for all occupations. Vocational training programs or apprenticeships are usually the first step. Women interested in this profession must be versed in electrical theory, residential and commercial electrical wiring, as well as national/state/local building codes. Aspiring electricians typically must be licensed before they can enter the workforce, a process that varies from state to state.

The energy industry is one of the fastest growing fields in the country and alternative power generation methods like solar and gas will require more experienced electricians for installation.

Transportation

Only 15 percent of all the blue-collar transportation jobs in the United States are held by women, according to the Department of Transportation. However, considering there are roughly 13 million people who are employed in transportation-related jobs in the United States and half of them are eligible for retirement within the next 10 years, there will be plenty of openings in this skilled trade.

And these transportation jobs don't always require driving incredibly long hours under often stressful conditions – which has deterred women in the past. Thanks to new technologies in the transportation industry, many of these jobs involve management of shipments, tracking of packages, management of systems and design of highways, roads and bridges. Moreover, as the country continues to grow, the transportation industry will open up more employment opportunities.

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