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Career fair seeks women for jobs in the trades

Seeking Opportunities Developing Occupations (SODO, Inc.)
Leah Scott learns how to operate a cement polisher as part of a program that helps disadvantaged young people gain job experience. A career fair this weekend aims to recruit more women like Scott into trade industry jobs.

The recession has been tough on workers in the trades. The latest state unemployment report showed construction had a particularly bad month between February and March. That’s not stopping a job fair aimed at attracting more women to building and repair industries.

Very few women work in trades that involve hammering away at new buildings, unclogging sewer pipes or moving containers at the shipyard. The Washington Women in Trades Career Fair aims to change that. It takes place on Friday at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion.

Peggy Owens, who maintains power lines for Seattle City Light, says she thinks things will soon turn around for struggling trade industries:

“There are great jobs out there for women. And, it’s something that does need to be promoted. So we can get more women in the field.”

She says while many of the trades have suffered since the recession hit, fields like hers have been steady because people rely on utilities. When things turn around for other trades, she wants women to know they don’t have to be stuck in cubicles.

“You know, working inside isn’t for everybody. For those who want to work outside and perform with their hands and use their heads, this is a great opportunity.”

Owens and other women who work in trade industries will be at the career fair to demonstrate what they do. She says most women don't know they can climb poles and fix power lines for a living. At the event, they'll get a chance to try their hands at putting on the gear and shimmying up a pole.

For those who are scared of heights or just curious about other fields, the event will also have more than 70 exhibitors safely indoors at Fisher Pavilion.

Learning about the trades is just the first step. After that, women usually need the following qualifications:

  • knowledge of tools
  • math skills
  • an apprenticeship

Perseverance helps, too.  Recently, Owens says 1,200 people applied to become part of her team at Seattle City Light and only 14 were accepted to the department’s training program.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.