Trade skill competitions showcase the construction skills of women, helping female competitors gain recognition and bringing awareness to this lucrative career path in construction. As in the construction industry as a whole, females make-up a small percentage of competitors in trade skill competitions but are making strides, and are even winning.
Here are a few of the competitions bringing recognition to construction trade skills for women:
The SkillsUSA Championships are arguably the most well-known of career and technical competitions. They are designed to reward excellence from the best career and technical education students in the US. Students must advance from local through state levels to earn the right to compete at the national level. In 2022, about 5,200 students competed in 108 events, including construction skills such as carpentry, welding, electrical construction wiring, and plumbing.
Spotlight on: Miyahna and Ramiah Cook
Mother and daughter, Miyahna and Ramiah Cook were inspired by a home renovation project to pursue careers in construction. Miyahna had an interest in carpentry and framing, while Ramiah was interested in bricklaying and masonry, so they enrolled in a program at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. Although they had been in the program only for about 3 months, an instructor, impressed with the women’s efforts, signed them up for the Arkansas SkillsUSA competition. Miyahna won gold for carpentry and Ramiah won gold for masonry. The duo went on to represent the state at the national competition. Read more about their inspiring story and what the future holds for the Cooks.
The IDEAL Nationals competition honors the best electricians in the country. Apprentices compete at a qualifying event, with the top 2 competitors and top 2 fastest at each event moving on to the finals and the chance to win $40,000. Professionals can compete in their own event during qualifiers. The professional winner receives a prize package and bragging rights but does not move on to the finals. IDEAL Nationals are part of the Elite Trades Championship series which also include the US Auto Tech National Championship and the ServiceTitan HVAC National Championship.
Spotlight on: Emma Becker
In 2022, Apprentice Emma Becker made her mark on the IDEAL Nationals competition for electricians by taking home the Automatic Qualifier title and becoming the first female to advance to the final apprentice round at the IDEAL National Championship. Watch her story.
Winning women welders
Since the first World War, women have worked as welders during wartime. In 1943, shipbuilding companies held the National Women’s Welding Competition as part of recruitment efforts during World War II. It was judged by the Maritime Commission, the Bureau of Ships, and the U.S. Navy and covered by national media, including the Associated Press and Life Magazine. Today, there are many competitions and programs to encourage young women welders, from local high school competitions to the IronWoman Welding Contest.
Spotlight on: Penn College of Technology 2018 all-women welding team
In 2018, Penn College of Technology sent an all-women Welding Fabrication team to the state SkillsUSA competition. According to a feature in the Winter 2019 SkillsUSA Champions magazine, the women were recruited “only to give some competition to three male students who were eyeing a trip to states. No one thought they’d go on to win the gold medal, but they did.”
Students Joelle Perelli, Erin Beaver, and Natalie Rhodes had never met each other before being chosen for the team. They went on to place 7th nationally.
Erin Beaver was a veteran of national SkillsUSA competition before joining the Penn College of Technology team. She had already placed 2nd in Welding Sculpture in 2016 and 1st in Welding Sculpture in 2017. In 2019, she placed 3rd in Welding Sculpture.
Construction trade skills for women
The skilled trades offer competitive pay and stable employment for women entering the workforce or making a career change. Trade schools, training programs, and apprenticeships help build construction trade skills for women quicker and are less expensive than 4-year college degree programs.
Looking for more information? Learn more about construction trade skills for women on the NAWIC website, nawic.org. NAWIC provides support, networking, mentorship, and advocacy for women in all areas of construction. With more than 5,100 members in 118 chapters across the US, the National Association for Women in Construction is the leading organization for women in the industry.