NEW finds success in placing women in trade union jobs

Participant in Nontraditional Employment for Women training.

Nontraditional Employment for Women trainee.

Those beginning the reentry process and starting to look for a job should seriously consider the trades – a type of employment that tends to be ex-offender friendly, can provide steady work and pays well with great benefits. And Nontraditional Employment for Women in New York City is determined to make sure that more women can take advantage of the opportunities that blue-collar work offers.

In spite of the many advantages of the trades, women have entered them at a painfully slow pace. The most recent statistics available from the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor show that they make up only 1 percent of roofers and electricians; 1.4 percent of carpenters; 1.5 percent of pipe layers, pipe fitters and plumbers; 3.9 percent of machinists; and 5.4 percent of welders.

Nontraditional Employment for Women is out to change that. It’s been around for 35 years, and since 2005 has helped more than 600 graduates of its programs find work as carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, plumbers, painters, operating engineers and sheet metal workers, with at least another 225 finding employment in transportation, energy and facilities maintenance.

According to Evelyn Parr, the organization’s manager of partner and supporter relations, NEW serves approximately 500 women annually and placed more than 30 women in union positions during the past year – after they completed the organization’s pre-apprenticeship training program.

NEW offers a six-week, full-time Blue Collar Prep class that gives an overview of construction industry apprenticeships and trades in New York City; instruction in math as it relates to the trades; and hands-on shop classes to give students an introduction to carpentry, painting and electrical work, among other subjects. Students are also taught interview skills and how to deal with discrimination and sexual harassment on the job.

Another six-week pre-apprenticeship program, ReNEW, focuses on green-collar jobs and includes classes on such things as solar theory, environmental literacy and building science. It also provides hands-on workshops in which students are introduced to solar panel installation, residential home weatherization, carpentry and environmental math.

As a result of the training, ReNEW graduates have been placed in jobs related to weatherization, urban agriculture and cool roofs, as well as positions in the areas of energy efficiency and sustainability.

After women complete the pre-apprenticeship training and gain employment, NEW provides a support system with regular advanced training workshops, networking events and union services, as well as ongoing social services.

For more information on NEW, visit


Other organizations

NEW is an excellent example of an organization helping women enter the trades, but there are others doing similar work in cities around the U.S.

Here are a few of them:


Moore Community House: Women in Construction, Biloxi, Miss.

This project was launched after Hurricane Katrina to provide job-training so that low-income women could obtain well-paying jobs and to help rebuild the Gulf Coast after the storm’s devastation.


Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., Portland Ore.

Oregon Tradeswomen offers a variety of programs, including a free seven-week Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class, which includes training in basic trades math and the use of hand and power tools, along with information on green building and job site safety and construction culture. Participants get 30 hours of experience working on actual job sites.


Women in Non Traditional Employment Roles (WINTER), Los Angeles

WINTER conducts training programs lasting two to ten weeks that help women from challenged backgrounds embark on a variety of employment paths, including construction and building trade apprenticeships, environmental remediation and green jobs. The organization offers both day and evening classes.


Women Unlimited, Augusta, Maine

Women Unlimited offers a variety of courses and workshops ranging in length from a half day to six weeks. These include a six-week Construction Craft Laborer certificate course and an eight-week Intermediate Carpentry certificate course, as well as such trainings as a two-day Introduction to Blueprint Reading and a one-day Exploration in Welding workshop.


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Posted in Job Training Nonprofits.

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