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Women at work

At the tongue-in-cheek Work Wear Fashion Show-part of the annual Women in Trades Career Fair-workers model their everyday garb for hundreds of young women from local, metro and regional middle and high schools who attended the three-day event. The models are, from left, Tawny Sayers, a laborer, Journey and Apprenticeship Coordinator; Evan Orlando (blue shirt), a third-year sheet metal apprentice; Valentina Campa, a third-year apprentice carpenter; Cristi Sawtell, a Journey Lineworker and Central Work Planner for Bonneville Power Administration; Efrocinia “Effie” Efimoff, a second-year apprentice ironworker, and Portland Fire & Rescue Firefighter Magnolia “Maggie” Blackwood.
Memo photos/Tim Curran
Hands-on demonstrations at the annual Women in Trades Career Fair last month introduced more than 1,200 girls to the skilled trades as a career option. Portland General Electric taught utility pole climbing; Portland Water Bureau workers showed fair-goers how to shut off a broken water main, and Skanska representatives helped students build birdhouses as an introduction to carpentry.
More than 1,200 young women from Oregon and southwest Washington schools packed the annual Women in Trades Career Fair last month. The annual event-held in east Portland at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center on Northeast 162nd and Airport Way-attracted groups from 78 middle and high schools around the region. Wide varieties of career options in the skilled trades were introduced to school delegations-from as near as Parkrose and ACE Academy to as far-flung as Pendleton and Union-through hands-on demonstrations that hope to ignite sparks of interest. Representatives of companies ranging from the railroads to the print industry were on-hand to connect attendees with opportunities for apprenticeship training and careers in the trades.

Produced by Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., the annual fair helps increase diversity and the overall number of women working in skilled trades. It also helps fill gaps in the labor force created through record-levels of retirements among skilled trades people.

Demonstrating its importance, some schools brought groups both Thursday (Middle School Girls' Day) and Friday (High School Girls' Day). Students-along with 192 teachers-were among the more than 2,000 people who attended the event over its three-day run.

About 100 people attended the first Women in Trades Career Fair, a one-day event held in 1993 in Newport, Oregon.

Founded as a small support group by four tradeswomen in 1989, Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. is dedicated to promoting success for women in the trades through education, leadership and mentorship. OTI was founded on the principles that women deserve and can attain economic self-sufficiency through pursuing careers in the building, mechanical, electrical and utility trades while helping and encouraging the trades industry to build a diverse workforce.

In addition to the annual Women in Trades Career Fair, OTI offers three programs for young women.

1) Building Girls Summer Construction Camps and Work Crew: OTI's Building Girls program educates middle and high school girls about careers in the trades and offers workshops, summer camps and a paid work crew for girls to earn while they learn.

2) Pathways to Success Pre-Apprenticeship Class: OTI's Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class is a seven-week state-certified pre-apprenticeship class for women. Classroom instruction and field work help prepare women for a high-skill, high-wage career in the trades.

3) Tradeswomen Organized for Outreach, Leadership and Support: OTI's TOOLS program gives tradeswomen the skills and opportunity to advocate for equity in the trades.

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