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News April 25, 2018

Oregon nonprofit helps women find construction jobs

As Portland, Ore., struggles to find enough workers to meet construction demand, nonprofit Oregon Tradeswomen is working to help women find jobs in the industry, according to

Connie Ashbrook, director emeritus of Oregon Tradeswomen, founded the organization 29 years ago to address gender imbalance in the construction field.

After moving to Portland in 1978, Ashbrook was unhappy with a low-paying waitress job and was persuaded by a friend to pursue a construction job with a federal highway program. She later trained and worked as a carpenter, and then settled on a job as an elevator constructor—the highest-paid of the construction trades with a current prevailing wage of $48 per hour.

Ashbrook became the first female in Oregon to attain the "journey" level and wanted other women to realize the opportunities in construction. Ashbrook met other female construction workers in training programs, at union meetings and at job sites and began gathering with them for happy hours and potlucks, to offer emotional support and to discuss job leads. In 1989, Ashbrook formalized the group by founding Oregon Tradeswomen.

The nonprofit has grown to employ 15 women and has helped boost the female percentage of Oregon's construction workforce to more than twice the national average. The organization offers apprenticeship programs, job fairs and a free image library providing stock art depicting women in the field.


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