Why Consider a Career in the Trades?

Careers in the trades offer excellent wages, health benefits, and retirement earnings. The average starting wage for an apprentice is $16 per hour. Once you’ve finished your apprenticeship (3-5 years, depending on the trade), you can look forward to much higher wages, with journey workers on average, earning $37 per hour plus full health care and retirement contributions.

Equal Pay

On average, women earn less than men– despite over a hundred years of demands for equal pay for equal work. Women earn 81% of what men earn, and that wage gap widens for women of color, with Black women earning just 60% and Latina women earning 53% of men’s annual earnings. But that wage gap narrows when it comes to construction. Women working in the trades take home, on average 96% of what men earn. Women in the trades bridge the wage divide more than an in any other field.

The Difference of A Lifetime

Nurses Assistant Electrician
$14.68 per hour $26.78 per hour
$30,540 annually $55,700 annually
$916,200 over 30 years $1,671,000 over 30 years

Difference: $1,671,000 – $916,200 = $754,800

* Data from BLS Median Wage date for RI, 2017

Underrepesented, Not Undervalued

Unions and construction companies alike know how important it is to have women working in construction, and are actively looking for women to join their ranks. Yet women make up just 3% of field construction work nationally. It’s not unusual for trades women in Rhode Island to be the only woman on a jobsite, or among a very few women, and that can be challenging, especially for women apprentices first going to work.

“There’s no manual for this. Every job is going to be different. You’re going to meet different people. My experience on my first job was very different from the second and the third.

“My advice to women starting in the field: know what you’re doing it for. Because as a woman you have to have a certain mindframe and a certain focus. There’s a lot of distractions, a lot of incentives for people to try and get you off of your game. So you have to be extremely focused and know what you’re there for. Show up. Do your job. And do it ten times better than anybody else has ever done it.”  –Venniccia Kingston

A Rewarding Career

Despite the challenges,  for Vennicia, and for so many women, working as a skill trades person has created a rewarding career path.

“I’ve always been a hand-ons type of person. I’ve always wanted to be a thinker. I always wanted things to be different, to challenge me every day. I could never see being a behind a desk, dealing with papers. In the trades, you’re always learning. It’s always something different.

“I like being able to walk into a building or anywhere, and know so much about the process. Like even the Pawtucket Bridge, when I ride by it. I was there from the first footing going in to the groundbreaking at the end. So I built that bridge, and when I drive by it, I remember that. The FM Global building, when I go by there, I remember all the fun that we had. And I was in there from the demolition, so when I go back by and see it now I’m able to see the proces of how we built it. And to know that you had a part in it.” – Vennicia Kingston

Supporting Women Graduates

At Building Futures, we’re putting best practices from around the country to work. We know that women working in nontraditional fields need spaces to connect with one another to avoid burnout and to stay working in the field. We also know that it takes extra effort to encourage more women to consider the trades as a career path, women need to be able to see themselves succeeding. Our female graduates meet regularly, taking time from their schedules to support one another as apprentices and journeyworkers and to share their experience with women considering a career in the trades. If you’d like more information about how to build a career in the trades, Contact Us.

More Resources

There’s a lot of resources available for women considering a career in the Building Trades. Check out the video below, Sisters in the Brotherhood, to hear how women carpenters have built their careers. For more videos like this, you can follow our channel on Youtube.