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Tradeswoman and Mother Trillium Ward

No one said it was easy being a tradeswoman and a mom, but being a tradeswoman can give you the financial security to provide for your family. Trillium Ward began her journey into the skilled trades as a single mother of two, working as a drug and alcohol counselor for kids and young adults. Her job as a counselor was challenging work that only paid $12.50 an hour, hardly enough to support a family of three. Public assistance was helpful, but this was not the life Trillium imagined for herself. She had always loved working with her hands and took wood-shop, metal-shop, and other vocational programs her high school offered which focused on hands-on learning. With these experiences, the skilled trades started to look quite appealing as a new career option.

Trillium first applied to become an electrical apprentice with the IBEW, but didn’t score high enough on the application process to enter the program. After hearing about Oregon Tradeswomen around the community, she decided to enroll in the pre-apprenticeship program, the Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC). She knew that going through this program would be like receiving an endorsement of her qualifications and ability to succeed in the field. She was accepted to a special session of TACC that ran at night, which allowed her to continue working full time to support her family. If that wasn’t enough to demonstrate her commitment, she was also simultaneously taking a welding class on weekends!

After all her hard work in Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship program, Trillium graduated from TACC, re-applied to the IBEW’s apprenticeship program, and was accepted! As an apprentice, she immediately made $3 more per hour than she did as a drug and alcohol counselor. Being a single mother at the time, it was imperative to have a support network of family and other moms to help out with childcare because a typical day for Trillium started at 4:00 am! Thankfully, just 6 months into her apprenticeship, Trillium made enough money to get off of state assistance and afford daycare. Her advice to mothers thinking about pursuing a career in the trades is to “make sure you have reliable daycare that can accommodate early mornings and the ability to be flexible with your schedule!”

Just 5 years after starting on this new path, Trillium journeyed out of the Electrical apprenticeship! This is an incredibly proud accomplishment for her, because she managed to meet all of the strict program requirements around attendance and grades, all while having a new baby with her partner. Trillium is currently working for Oregon Electric Group where she runs bus ducts, installs conduits, pulls wire, creates panels, and installs lights among – other things. Trillium loves how her work keeps her brain engaged – whether she is learning new technology, new skills, or being put in different situations requiring adaptation and problem-solving. The hardest part about her job is the lack of continuity. When the people you work with, your start time, and your commute change regularly, its hard to plan for the future.

The biggest barrier Trillium faces as a woman in the trades is not outright harassment, but that compared to the men on her crews, she is not taken seriously. As a result, she has to to above and beyond to prove herself on every job-site – otherwise the men frequently assume that she isn’t competent. This becomes exhausting when you’re changing job-sites regularly – having to prove your worth with a new crew each time. Trillium’s advice for other tradeswomen is to help support other women. Solidarity is important in this field, so when you see other women, reach out, because the isolation can be hard.

In the end, the hard work pays off. Trillium says, “The amount of change in my financial status, going from poverty and living paycheck to paycheck, to financial freedom where I can buy a home and go on vacation has made a world of difference in my life and my children’s lives.”

Posted on by OTI Staff in About Oregon Tradeswomen, Apprentice, Career Path, OTI Graduates, Pre-Apprenticeship, TACC | Leave a comment

A Pathway to Green Careers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is invested in creating work opportunities in remediation and abatement in their own communities. Remediation and abatement are the methods used when a substance or practice in the construction industry is harmful to the environment and community. Remediation is the concept of using special techniques to make sure workers stay safe when dealing with hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos. Abatement is the process of removing the environmental threat so the entire community stays safe.

Often times, the remediation work needing to be done in a community is conducted by out of state workers. Oregon Tradeswomen’s Training Director, Amy James Neel, emphasizes, “Bringing in workers from out of state is a problem because these are high-skill, high-paying jobs. When people come in from out of state to do the work, those workers take their skills and their money with them out of the community and out of the state when the job is done.” In response, the EPA developed the Brownfields Program in 1995 to provide funding for training marginalized communities to enable them to access these important, high-paying jobs.

Oregon Tradeswomen has received Brownfields Program funding for many years, introducing our pre-apprenticeship students to career opportunities in our community dealing with remediation, alternative energy, material reuse, and cleaning up the federally recognized pollution sites affecting the Columbia and Willamette rivers. 

Oregon Tradeswomen’s Environmental Worker Training Track is a two-week optional training providing our students necessary skills and certifications to pursue competitive careers in the industry. Oregon Tradeswomen’s pre-apprenticeship students are shown a broad spectrum of possible careers in environmental remediation, anything from spill response, biohazard cleanup, wind-turbine maintenance, asbestos removal, and weatherization, just to name a few. One of the most advantageous aspects of the Brownfields EPA Grant funding is that it allows Oregon Tradeswomen to assist students beyond the two week training track! We are able to support students who are truly dedicated to pursuing careers the EPA deems beneficial to the environment by helping interested students obtain certifications giving them a competitive edge in their job search. For example, if a student is interested in deconstruction, we can help them get an RRP Certification which shows that they know how to safely work around lead.

Oregon Tradeswomen’s program has adapted over the years we have implemented this training, as our curriculum is based specifically on community needs and the jobs opportunities connected to those needs. At the present time, the demand for green/energy efficient practices and solar PV installations in residential buildings are growing quickly. In response, Oregon Tradeswomen has partnered with Energy Trust of Oregon to integrate an “Introduction to Green Construction and Solar PV” segment for the two-week training track delivered by Earth Advantage. During this in-depth training, our students learn about the following high performance building best practices and career opportunities in the green building and renewable energy industries:

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Health & Indoor Air Quality
  • Sustainable Materials
  • Water Conservation
  • Land Management
  • Solar Photovoltaics (PV)

As an added incentive, Energy Trust provides scholarships to participate in a  6-month Sustainable Homes Professionals (SHP) accreditation training offered by Earth Advantage that takes place every fall in Portland. Funding for scholarships was provided by Energy Trust to support student scholarships for Oregon Tradeswomen, as part of its overall efforts to expand training for energy efficiency and renewable energy in the building industry. Discounts for Minority and Women Business Enterprise (M/WSB) certified firms for this accreditation training are also available and provided by Earth Advantage.

Oregon Tradeswomen graduate Chelsea Acker recently received the SHP scholarship and excelled in the course, which led her to join the team at Green Hammer, a design-build firm delivering eco-friendly homes, renovations, and communities. In a note to Earth Advantage, Chelsea said:

“I am writing to extend many thanks and extreme gratitude to Earth Advantage. I am one of the SHP Scholarship awardees from the current SHP class. I graduated from Oregon Tradeswomen this past summer and knew I wanted to start my career in carpentry working for a company that focused on high performance energy efficient and sustainable builds. The SHP class was recommended to me as a way to learn more about building science and meet others who are active in this field. Within a few months into the course, I found myself passionate about building science, and applying for jobs. I was hired full-time at Green Hammer just a few weeks ago and it is my dream job! I can’t believe I am getting to begin my career with such an amazing company that aligns so clearly with my ethics, values, and passion. I honestly DO NOT believe that I would have gotten the job if it weren’t for this SHP course, and there is no way as a woman entering the field with little to no experience that I would have been able to afford this course on my own. I am extremely grateful and humbled by this opportunity and wanted to extend many many thanks for believing in me and giving me this chance. This course made is possible for me to enter into the trades with a focus on high performance energy efficient homes/buildings.”

Oregon Tradeswomen is tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work with community partners in the green construction industry under the EPA’s grant. With this support, Oregon Tradeswomen is able to help our pre-apprenticeship graduates gain valuable skills to pursue a living wage career all while helping our local community.  This funding also allows Oregon Tradeswomen to support our industry partners with exceptional, and appropriately certified employees who will go on to make the Earth a safer and more inhabitable place.

Posted on by OTI Staff in About Oregon Tradeswomen, Career Path, Community Partners, OTI Graduates | Leave a comment

LinkedIn Learning Teaches Construction Fundamentals

In 2018, Mary Ann Naylor, Oregon Tradeswomen’s Communications and Marketing Director, was approached directly by Linda Sellheim of LinkedIn Learning, also known as Lynda.com, a massive online learning resource for professional development. Linda was interested in creating a video series for LinkedIn Learning exploring careers in the construction trades, what working those jobs entails, and dispelling myths about the trades along the way. Most importantly, she was looking for a tradeswoman to be the face and voice leading the series!

After a productive meeting with Oregon Tradeswomen’s Development and Communications team, we directed Linda to the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center (NIETC) and our friend Bridget Quinn, who works as their Workforce Development Coordinator. We knew Bridget would be a prime candidate to lead a series on construction fundamentals. Not only is Bridget a Journey-level tradeswoman, but her role at the NIETC revolves around working with prospective apprentice-applicants to provide them with resources and guidance needed to successfully access union apprenticeship. Bridget is also a huge ally for Oregon Tradeswomen when we hold our Annual Career Fair at the Electrical Training Center and is a recipient of the Daily Journal of Commerce’s Women of Vision Award in 2017!

We are pleased to share links to the LinkedIn Learning track featuring Bridget Quinn. Videos are live on LinkedIn Learning and we encourage you to preview this incredible resource we hope will help many understand and access the world of the construction trades!


Posted on by OTI Staff in Apprentice, Career Path, Community Partners, Seminars and Trainings, tradeswomen | Leave a comment

3934 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. #101  |  Portland, Oregon 97212  |   phone: 503.335.8200  |  fax: 503.249.0445