News & Updates

News & Updates

ValleyBuild Working on Partnership with Tradeswomen

The ValleyBuild team is preparing to bring in a new organization dedicated to recruiting and supporting women in the skilled construction trades.

Tradeswomen Inc. is on track to join ValleyBuild, a partnership between the trades, regional workforce boards and other partners in 14 Central Valley counties. The coalition offers pre-apprenticeship training in construction trades that provide a clear path into good-paying jobs and steady careers.

Tradeswomen Inc. would work to recruit more women into the classes. Women make up only a tiny fraction of construction apprenticeships in California – something the organization has been trying to change.

“Women are not the first thought when people think about who should get into the trades,” said Susie Suafai, program manager with the Oakland-based organization established in 1979. “When people think about who should be an apprentice they think about men, they don’t think about women.”

For more than 40 years, Tradeswomen Inc. has been working to change that dynamic through outreach, recruitment, retention and leadership development efforts. That mission complements ValleyBuild’s commitment to diversity and to increasing the representation of non-traditional workers in the construction industry.

“Tradeswomen Inc. will be a strong addition to the ValleyBuild team,” said Blake Konczal, executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. “Our partnership has made it a priority to offer this transformational training to diverse and under-represented groups such as women. We want everyone who is interested in the trades to have the opportunity to change their lives for the better.”

The shortage of women in the trades is related to many factors, starting with a societal push that begins in childhood. “The career choices that women make are still traditional because they have not been exposed to the non-traditional career choices,” Suafai said.

Salena Durrell, the Central Valley Program Coordinator for Tradeswomen, is a former carpenter’s apprentice who knows the path into the trades. She said women face challenges – such as being scrutinized more or simply being overlooked for jobs — but are more than capable of succeeding.

One of the biggest hurdles is a lack of information. Durrell offers virtual workshops for a Central Valley audience on the fourth Thursday of each month that help introduce the trades, provide information and show women how they can pursue their interest.

Additionally, the Tradeswomen website — – presents information about training, apprenticeships, workshops, individual trades and more.

With ValleyBuild, the organization would provide outreach and recruitment for the various pre-apprenticeship classes to improve the overall representation of women in the training. “We are excited to do this work for ValleyBuild,” Suafai said.

ValleyBuild is funded by a $1.56 million state grant matched by its partners. Funding comes from Senate Bill 1, a state transportation initiative focused on rebuilding and improving California streets, freeways, bridges, transit and other transportation corridors.

A portion of SB1 is devoted to workforce training programs such as ValleyBuild. Over the three-year life of the grant, ValleyBuild aims to enroll roughly 275 people in pre-apprenticeship training in the building and construction trades.