Construction: Not just for boys


Girls-only after-school Construction Clubs have begun cropping up in Portland high schools, under a project of non-profit Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. known as Building Girls. The group’s mission is to increase the participation of women in high-wage high-skill building, mechanical, electrical, utility, and highway construction trades careers.

Construction Club
Adit, a student at Wilson High School, learns from Building Girls volunteer Kaeli Casati, an employee of residential remodeling firm Environs. (Photo by Katie Yablonski, courtesy of Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.)

The clubs, led by volunteer  tradeswomen, meet weekly. Participants get pizza, cookies, and hands-on lessons on how to safely use power tools. The first club drew a dozen girls at Wilson High School for 12 weeks starting in October. The girls also visited a furniture maker, and made wooden toys which they donated to Raphael House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

The second club began Jan. 27 at Benson High School and will run eight weeks. Building Girls program manager Katie Yablonski is in talks with several other Portland-area high schools about expanding the program.

“The intent is to get young women interested in work they may have seen as something just for the boys,” says Oregon Tradeswomen communications manager Mary Ann Naylor.

Building Girls is also offering a summer day camp for middle school and high school girls, and a four-week work crew for girls and young women 17 to 24 years old who are interested in a career in construction, in which they earn a small stipend while learning basic construction skills and visiting apprenticeship training centers.

Naylor said the Building Girls program will serve more than 1,600 girls this year.

To find out more, or to apply online for the girls summer day camp, click here.


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