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A Pathway to Success for Women in the Trades: Liz's Success Story

A Pathway to Success for Women in the Trades: Liz's Success Story

Liz Nichols had a degree in English but had only been able to find work as a landscaper and barista in Portland, Oregon. Looking back, she says, “I was 29 years old, slowly sinking into debt, with no health benefits or plan for retirement. I wanted to have children, but I was in debt and had no health insurance, and it was hard to see a way forward on that path.”

So, Liz switched to a new path, beginning Oregon Tradeswomen’s Pathways to Success pre-apprenticeship program in January 2013. This program introduces women and nonbinary individuals to the skilled trades through field trips, guest speakers, hands-on work, and training opportunities. “They got me job-ready and connected me with the Cement Masons Union Local 555, [which] I decided to join after graduating from the pre-apprenticeship program.” Liz completed a cement mason apprenticeship, worked as a cement mason for nine years, and today works as a business agent for Local 555.

It’s not an exaggeration to say the apprenticeship changed her life. “I learned a skilled trade and feel comfortable in the knowledge that I can support myself and my family for my entire career. During my apprenticeship, I was able to work my way up to a living wage, pay off all my debt, and provide health insurance for me and my husband. I bought a house, and I got pregnant with my son in the last year of my apprenticeship. My son is now 6 years old, and I have an 18-month-old daughter whom I support with my job in the trades.”

She also points to the confidence the training gave her. “I'd always been a mediocre student with ADHD and a learning disability. I had very little confidence in my ability to ever find a career I could be successful in and make a living wage in. The hands-on learning and fast pace of construction suited my style of learning perfectly, and I became a valued and sought-after worker. Finding this path made me believe in myself and my future in a way I never had before.”

Are you considering a career in the trades? Liz wants you to know that you can do it! “There is nothing that the construction trades require of you physically or mentally that you're not capable of with a little training, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!”

Publish Date: 03/01/2024