One of the first projects that Portland’s Renee Beaudoin got involved in after graduating from Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.’s (OTI) Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC) in 2011 was making phone calls to U.S. legislators. She was part of a team urging Senators and Congresspeople to support hiring women and people of color to work on the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building modernization project.
She chuckles at the memory: “And then I ended up working here – kind of funny.”
It’s also a kind of linking of eras. One of the building’s namesakes, the late Oregon Congresswoman Edith Green, may be best known for Title IX, the part of the 1972 Higher Education Act that prohibited federally funded colleges and universities from discriminating against women. Title IX also opened the doors for girls to attend “shop” classes.
In high school, though, Renee was on a track toward healthcare. “I thought I wanted to do nursing or something like that,” she says. “I went through the whole health occupational program at Benson High School, but I didn’t ever look for any type of job in the healthcare industry.” Renee didn’t discover the trades until later, when she was serving a prison sentence and learned about OTI’s TACC program.
Now Renee is one of hundreds of tradespeople working on the modernization project, which will make the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt building only the fifth LEED-certified federal building in the country. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and the certification, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, focuses on the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. This effort is classified as a federal “mega project” because the budget is over $50 million, its impact on the economy, the community, and its duration of more than two years. “It’s good to be part of the team. I look around and I see other women,” Renee says. “I feel really proud – I wish there were more (women on the project).”
In the program Renee is part of, a worker advances to the next level, or “term”, after 750 hours on the job, as a member of the carpenters union, Renee’s career is just getting started – and she loves it. “I’m excited that I’m going to be learning,” she says. “I’m just now at the very beginning of my career. Even my boss, who has been at it for 20 years now, says ‘I still learn something new every day.’”
Learning new things seems to come naturally to Renee. Once she found out about OTI, she was set to go. “I was really focused and knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she says. “But I didn’t know about the union or anything until I went through OTI’s TACC program.”
Renee is earning approximately the same weekly wage she was earning at her last job, working retail at a mall, but she is a lot happier. “Plus, I know I’m going to be moving up (in pay grade),” she says. Journey-level carpenters can make up to $32.00 an hour.
Renee added, “At the end of the day I can look back at all the work that I did for the day. And it’s like, cool, look at what I did!”