News & Updates

News & Updates

Fresno’s All-Female Cohort Strives to Attract Women to the Trades

Fresno Workforce’s Ashley Matthews and state labor officical Natalie Palugyai unveil the logo for the all-woman training cohort.

An all-female ValleyBuild class launching this summer in Fresno aspires to bring more women into the construction trades.

Recruiting is under way for the first-ever women-only cohort — dubbed ValleyBuild NOW (Non-traditional Occupations for Women) – that pairs traditional apprenticeship readiness training with workshops from Tradeswomen, Inc.

The new program was announced in Fresno on March 8, International Women’s Day, at a press conference attended by officials that included Natalie Palugyai, Secretary of the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency; Blake Konczal, executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board; Esmeralda Soria, Fresno City Council member; and Chuck Riojas, financial secretary/treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties Building and Construction Trades Council and member of the California Workforce Development Board.

In part, the goal of the cohort is to attract more women to the training and address the issues and barriers that discourage or prevent women from entering the trades. Training begins Aug. 8 and will feature female trailblazers in the industry, including graduates, trainers and journeywomen in various trades.

Ashley Matthews, project coordinator for construction with the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, said women generally only make up 20% to 25% of the students in a typical apprenticeship readiness class.  An all-female cohort may be less intimidating and more comfortable for women who want to explore construction trades as a steady career.

“There is a notion out there that women don’t belong in construction, but that is not the case,” Matthews said. “The trades have expressed how important it is to bring in more women, and these jobs pay living wages – they pay family-sustaining wages. That’s why we want to bring in more women.”

Up to 13 trades will be represented in the program, and the usual six-week class will stretch to eight weeks partly to accommodate additional certifications and specialized workshops by Tradeswomen, Inc., an organization that supports women in the trades through outreach, recruitment, retention and leadership development efforts.

“There really is a strong need for women, and there are women who want to get out there and do this,” said Salena Durrell, Central Valley Program Coordinator for Tradeswomen, Inc. and MC3 Coordinator for the North Valley. “The construction industry is male-dominated. When I was in the elevator trade, there was nobody who looked like me.”

Tradeswomen workshops will cover such topics as basic apprenticeship information, surviving and thriving within the trades, and how to find your voice and be an advocate for yourself. Durrell said Tradeswomen also can offer resources to help with placement after training is complete.

With the new cohort, Fresno-based partners in ValleyBuild hope to start creating a pipeline for women into the skilled construction trades. Interest in the class has been strong, and the goal is to enroll 20 women.

For more information about the all-female cohort, or ValleyBuild classes throughout the 14-county region, visit