The contracting industry is at a cross-roads. The workforce is growing older, and finding new talent has been an ongoing struggle. But there’s a new group of emerging talent who are showing a blooming interest in the field– women.
Nationwide, about 9,000 women plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters and steamfitters comprise only 1.6 percent of the 564,000 workers in the field, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and an article in The Columbian. Most high school girls who attend the trade association’s job fairs “have no idea these opportunities are available to them,” said Cynthia Polly Payne, spokeswoman for Washington Women in Trades, based in Seattle. But today, with an extra push from the press, social media and women who are currently thriving in the industry, it seems like those figures could soon be changing.
Jennifer Lannon is a prime example of a woman and an entrepreneur thriving. She and her father, John Lannon, opened Jen’s Plumbing & Heating in Sandwich, Mass. in March 2014. Jennifer is only 20 years old, and learned the plumbing trade from her father, a Master Plumber for 40 years, according to PMMag. After being unready to commit to four years’ worth of school to have a degree that she wasn’t sure she would use, Jennifer realized she wanted to work in something that gave her the feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day. Plumbing became a topic of discussion, and at that point the father-daughter duo decided to open up a business together.
Jennifer is currently registered as her father’s apprentice. She started as a plumbing apprentice when she was 18; her goal is to become a journeyman plumber at the age of 23 and go for her Master Plumber’s license the following year. In Jennifer’s opinion it shouldn’t matter whether a plumber is a man or a woman. However, she does believe that women may have something to prove working in a male-dominated trade.
“Many men think it’s great when they see a woman stepping into the trades and making a mark, but there are also men who are going to give you grief for the same reason,” Jennifer said.
Do you think you’ll be seeing more women in the trades?