Women could be the solution to the severe shortage of construction workers – Boston 25 News

As the country struggles with a shortage of skilled workers, it may be women who are helping to fill the gap.

This school year, girls studying construction-related trades make up more than 20 percent of vocational programs in Massachusetts.

Women also make up more than 10 percent of union apprenticeships in the state, according to the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues.

While the numbers are among the highest in the country, advocates say they’re not high enough.

Driving her pink van and rocking her pink gear, Sue Jacobs-Marshalsea embraces being among a handful of local freelance plumbers, despite what she says is a stigma towards the industry over her 40 years on the job.

“I love it. I love the plumbing,” Marshalsea said. “They all think it’s gross, disgusting, smelly, it’s terrible, and it really isn’t. Maybe one in 15 jobs is disgusting.

Mrs. Fix It, as she is known, says she may be small but she is resourceful, capable of doing just about anything her male counterparts can.

“I have a firm belief that there is always a way to do something,” Jacobs-Marshalsea said. “You just have to figure out how to do it.”

Jacobs-Marshalsea says women have an opportunity to fill a severe shortage of construction workers, especially in the private sector, where female membership is far below the number of unions.

Jacobs-Marshalsea funds scholarships and encourages young people to enter trades that she says can lead to fulfilling, well-paying careers without college debt.

“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” she said.

Aanycia Rivera, a junior studying plumbing and HVAC at Minuteman Regional Technical High School, was one of several hundred girls who attended a union job fair last month hosted by Massachusetts Girls in Trades.

“There’s a lot of problem solving and a lot of math, actually, that you wouldn’t think there would be. And the work is a lot cleaner than you actually think,” Rivera said of his love for plumbing “Coming here has definitely helped me be inspired and feel more confident to get into the trades because I’ve always been afraid to do it.”

Bre Rankins, an apprentice union carpenter, shared her love for the job with an audience of enthusiastic female students.

“We can absolutely build with our hands and be proud of it,” Rankins said. “It’s a skill you can pass on to the kids. You know, you can make it your own.

As unions and construction companies struggle to find workers due to the pandemic, the “big quit” and a decline in interest among millennials, Rankins thinks girls can not only be the solution but also the future.

“Although it’s male dominated, that doesn’t mean we don’t belong,” Rankins said. “Women belong, where we want to belong. As long as we put in the effort to do what we want, we can accomplish just about anything.

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Alice F. Ponder