4:56 p.m.Friday, November 4, 2022
At Wayzata High School on Friday, leaders in the construction industry touted the benefits of an industry students might not have thought of in recent years.
“I think in years past, whether it was in college or anything related to the trades, it seemed less. We just need to get this out of everyone’s mind,” said Heidi Blanck, an associate professor of construction management at Northern Michigan University, who helped organize Friday’s event.
The event titled “Women in Construction Day” highlighted a glaring gender disproportion in the industry’s workforce. Only 9% of workers in the construction sector are women. Educators say that needs to change.
“We want them to understand that this is not a career field just for boys,” Blanck said. “It’s definitely something all girls have the opportunity to pursue. It is very rewarding. No matter where you are in the industry, you can be very successful with cash income and benefits. It’s really just a great opportunity for people who love this tangible result.
Blanck indicates a wide variety of jobs in the field. That includes construction management, a career path that is expected to grow 10% over the next five years with a median wage of $45 per hour, according to statistics provided by Northern Michigan.
For the students, it was an opportunity to hear about careers they might not have thought of otherwise.
“I didn’t realize it was so easy to get involved in construction,” said Ally Cole, a Wayzata student who saw herself in the home improvement industry. “There are a lot of opportunities you can have, so you can find something you love instead of just having one job to do.”
Wayzata student Alexis Schoen took an interest in welding, taking over from her brother.
“Jobs are all different kinds of jobs,” Schoen said of Friday’s event. “But they’re all somehow related to each other.”
Representatives highlighted a variety of industry careers that offer apprenticeships, where you earn while you learn.
Marisa Dickey found a career as a project engineer with Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction.
“Mortenson has made incredible strides in attracting more women,” Dickey said. “We have a lot of outreach groups. We have a mentorship program where you are matched with someone who has been in the industry a little longer. So if you need help you can reach out to them and they will give you all the advice you need.
Friday’s event included a virtual reality station where Mortenson showcased his work on wind turbines. Dickey says renewable energy projects now generate half of the company’s revenue.
Another station allowed students to learn how to develop a city, taking into account everything from budget to construction constraints.
The different areas got students thinking about the vital role construction plays in society.
“Where would we be without construction? Blanck said. “If you want your roads, you want your buildings, your hospitals, your malls, your stadiums, we need the people to build them. And they are professionals. This is the most important thing, it is a professional career.
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