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By Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 13 October 2011

A national study issued last week singled out Oregon Tradeswoman as one of the most effective job equity institutions in the country in the area of work training in the transportation industry. The Skanner News spoke last week with their Executive Director Connie Ashbrook about the group's mission, their training programs, and how local women can sign up for free training in blue-collar trades.

Jeanette Brown, laborer apprentice

The Skanner News: Talk about the report that came out recently—what did it say?

Connie Ashbrook: The report is talking about the importance of making training work so that people of color and women have access to the high-wage and high-skilled trades careers that are available in the transportation industry. It's looking at roads, bridges, light-rail, and other transportation infrastructure.

TSN: I remember a few years ago when President Obama announced the stimulus funding for jobs programs, that Oregon Tradeswomen actually received significant funding for jobs training. Connie how many jobs did your trainees get?

Ashbrook: Because of stimulus dollars we were able to educate over 130 women a year for the past two years about careers in the blue collar fields. For free. So also women last year, 79 of them got jobs in the trades, and their average wage is $13.89 an hour, and that's just a starting wage. Typically that will grow over time through their apprenticeship because a core part of the apprenticeship is that you start at an entry-level wage and every six months, as your skill and training advances you get a higher wage.

Jonetta Abraham,
journey-level cement mason

We're continuing to work with all of them to move them into employment somewhere between 67 and 70 percent of our graduates are becoming employed in the trades so we're very pleased with that. For instance 27 women so far have become weatherization technicians, 5 women this year became roofers, and 4 women this year became electrical apprentices – it really runs the gamut. These jobs are the pathway into the middle class for women who are not going to college.

TSN: What is your secret?

Ashbrook: I have an amazing team of folks at work to support the women that come in our door.

TSN: How can women sign up for training?

Ashbrook: Oct. 12 we are graduating our last class for this year, but we will have five more classes next year. This is the last one that is funded through stimulus dollars. The stimulus dollars have meant the job training support services, career counseling and experiences, connections for women so that they're successful in their application process and the job once they got in the job. They knew what was expected of them, they could show their stuff, they knew the tools, they were strong, they could get the job done.

Thu Nov. 3 information session at PCC Metropolitan Workforce Training Center, 2-4 p.m., call to register 503-335-8200 x21 If they want to sign up for the classes next year.

For more information go to www.tradeswomen.net

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