During World War II, men went overseas, and women stepped into the roles men had to leave. It was then that Rosie the Riveter was born, and essential jobs like welding, mechanics, and electricians were all filled by women who fought the war on the home front by getting the work done. Once the war ended, women headed back to their prewar positions, and men went back to the trade jobs.
Now, in 2020, women once again should consider making a career in the skilled trades — a world where six figures are attainable, and where training can be attained with little to no debt. Explore trade careers for women by reading on.
Why Skilled Trades
For the last few years, there’s a growing shortage of skilled trades workers in areas such welding, electric, plumbing, healthcare, and mechanics.
With a wide majority of the workers being age 45 and over, retirement is just around the corner for many, which will increase the deficit.
In World War II, the U.S. saw an increase of support for women and trade. The work climate is headed back to that mindset. Trades are looking for women to step in and work to repair and rebuild our country.
Women aren’t the dominant presence in skilled trade careers, aside from medical, cosmetology, and culinary. However, over half of the homes in America are being supported, one way or another, by the woman head of household. And female full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree earn a median annual salary of almost $40,000, but experienced women in trades can make over six figures a year.
Skilled Trade Careers For Women
With a high school diploma/GED and training, women can enter whichever trade they like. Here are a dozen positions out of hundreds of career roles possible:
- HVAC technician: Work in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. Train in as few as 6 months. Find HVAC technician programs.
- Dental assistant: Sit at the dentist's side and assist with tools as he or she works. Train in as few as 10 months. Find dental assistant programs.
- Welder: Fuse metal together in a career that spans many industries. Train in as few as 9 months. Find welding programs.
- Medical biller or medical coder: Work in the medical industry, behind the scenes entering patient diagnoses and sending invoices to insurance companies. Train in as few as 9 months. Find medical billing programs and medical coding programs.
- Aircraft mechanic: Repair and maintain helicopters, airplanes, and jets. Train in as few as 18 months. Find aircraft mechanic programs.
- Electrician: Run and repair power for outside power lines, residential homes, commercial buildings, and more. Train in as few as 10 months. Find electrician programs.
- Diesel technician: Keep vehicles with diesel engines in top condition. Train in as few as 10 months. Find diesel technician programs.
- Phlebotomy technician: Draw blood from patients for lab work. Train in as few as 10 months. Find phlebotomy technician programs.
- Paralegal: Assist attorneys on cases from start to finish. Train in as few as 18 months. Find paralegal programs.
- Medical assistant: Take patient vitals, help doctors and nurses in exam rooms, and schedule appointments. Train in as few as 9 months. Find medical assistant programs.
- Plumber: Install fixtures, pipes, and answer emergency calls. Train in as few as 10 months. Find plumber programs.
Professional truck driving is for women, too.
Trades Scholarships For Women
Going to trade school can take you from the classroom into the workforce relatively quickly, without racking up the debt that would go along with a traditional four-year university. Even more good news—financial help is available.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor announced $1.9 million available in grants for Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) program, which allocates funds to community-based organizations.
Not to mention, women are also eligible to apply for and receive government-allocated educational funds by filling out the FAFSA. Also, look at grants for minorities, grants for female veterans, and grants specifically for women of all ages going into trade jobs. Please take a look at our guide to getting financial aid for trade schools; it’s filled with information needed to find locate available funding for vocational school.
Some female-specific scholarship opportunities:
- The American Association of University Women offers funds for full-time female students who are entering fields where women aren’t represented, such as math, engineering, and sciences.
- There are a number of female-specific scholarships available for those entering the culinary field, such as Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
- Horizon Scholarship for Women in Defense is available for females headed into criminal justice fields.
- The Jeanette Rankin Foundation Scholarship is for females aged 35 or older who are going back to school for a vocational/trade degree, associate degree, or a first bachelor’s degree.
Associations For Women In Trades
To create equality and ethics, and eliminate barriers that prohibit the success of females in trades, a significant amount of associations have been formed. There are many national organizations and even more on a state level. A quick Google search for your state will show you numerous results. You can also contact one of the listed associations; they may be able to give you state-specific information.
- Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women (ANEW) was founded in 1980 and is one of the oldest pre-apprenticeship programs for women taking non-traditional career paths. ANEW provides training and job placement for women in the skilled trade work force.
- Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) is a program that provides instruction and training for women who choose careers in construction. Founded in 1978, NEW is primarily a New York-based program focused on low-income minority women to bring them into skilled, unionized jobs that start at around $17 an hour.
- Pride and Paycheck is a free monthly e-magazine supporting females in skilled trade careers. Much of it is content relayed in stories from other women in trades.
- Hard Hatted Woman is dedicated to help women succeed in trade skills. It helps match qualified female skill workers with jobs.
- National Association of Women in Construction(NAWIC) states on its website that its core purpose is to enhance the success of women in the construction industry. The association aims to raise employer awareness, education women in the construction industry, and to create an infrastructure to meet the needs and goals of women in construction.
- Professional Women in Construction (PWC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of opportunities for women and minorities in nontraditional and minority-owned business roles.
- Women in NonTraditional Employment Roles (WINTER) helps to promote the employment of highly skilled women working in two sectors: poverty-level women and youth to provide “progressive high school education,” training, and employment. The mission is to “empower women to achieve economic self-sufficiency.”
- Women in Trucking (WIT) brings gender diversity to what is considered a heavily male-dominated industry with the hope of alleviating obstacles women face in trucking. The organization focuses on the transportation and logistics industry.
With the right training, a career in the skilled trades will provide you not only with a massive amount of job satisfaction but also a true sense of self. There’s nothing like being content with who you are and the direction your life is going!