Over 400 girls converged on Boston Local 103’s headquarters recently for a first-of-its-kind opportunity to learn about the building trades, and how to get a job in one.

The event, organized by the Massachusetts Girls in Trade Advisory Group, involved 18 area high schools, local businesses and nearly 20 labor unions representing all the building trades, including Local 103 and Springfield, Mass., Local 7.

The March 30 conference was spearheaded by Minuteman High School and Wynn Everett, a hotel and resort chain, as part of an effort to create a pipeline to encourage young women to join the trades.

Boston Local 103 hosted a first-of-its-kind conference to encourage girls to enter the trades. Among the attendees were students from Minuteman High School: Lola Clemente, left, Erica Grandon, Aibhlinn Moore, Lindsey Kelly, Haley Rice, Hannah English, Midalia Ramos, Kendra Hennigan and Kaylah Bennett. Photo credit: Neeva Coovert, Minuteman student photographer

“Too many women have been frozen out [of the trades],” said Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades. “You should feel comfortable in a union hall or at a job site. Massachusetts Girls in Trade shows that many young women are interested in rewarding, high-wage careers in the trades.”

There are currently 3,000 high school girls who are enrolled in programs in the trades in Massachusetts, yet most do not end up working in the field, said Maryanne Nadeau Ham, school administrator for Minuteman High. 

“We believe we can provide the necessary guidance to career and technical educators to help open pathways for their students to these high-paying careers in construction trades,” Nadeau Ham said.

The attendees heard from women working in the trades and participated in workshops, including “Becoming a Union Tradeswoman.”  They also toured the Local 103 training center and visited an exhibition hall populated by 50 exhibitors.

“It was a great day and a great opportunity,” said Local 103 Business Manager John P. Dumas. “I’m glad we could be a part of it.”

One of the conference speakers was Amenyonah Bossman, assistant superintendent at Suffolk Construction.

“When you know what you want to do, stick with it,” Bossman said. “You’re going to find people here – men and women – who are supportive of your goals.”

One of those supporters is Mark Kuenzel, Springfield, Mass., Local 7 training director.

“It was excellent. I heard a lot of good questions from the girls,” Kuenzel said of the event. “It was great to speak to the counselors as well.”

A lot of high school counselors lack an education on what the trades can offer, Kuenzel said, like the college credit that comes with many apprenticeships. Oftentimes technical careers are overlooked in favor of four-year college degrees, despite those careers offering a pathway to college.

Kuenzel lives about 90 miles outside Boston and said he is hoping to work with the organizers on two conferences next year, one in Boston and one on the western side of the state.

“The biggest thing is recruiting. We might even need to start sooner, in middle school,” he said. “That way you have more time to try the trades out. It takes a certain kind of personality, and that’s true for men and women.”

Nygren, a telecommunications technician, teaches telecommunications and fiber optics at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. She also sits on the alumni board for Wentworth Institute of Technology and serves on the mentoring committee.

“At 15, it’s hard to know whether they’ll stay involved, but a lot of them seem interested,” she said of her freshmen, six of whom are girls she recruited for an exploratory class, in part by sharing her experience and telling them how in demand women are in the field.

“I’m trying to show them a part of this industry and that you can make almost $100,000 a year as a journeyman electrician,” Nygren said. “And construction is booming in Boston. There are cranes on every corner.”

At least one of the attendees may well find herself a mentee of Nygren. Minuteman High School senior Midalia Ramos said the conference was rewarding, reported Patch.com, a local publication.  And maybe even life-changing.

“One of my most memorable moments was speaking to one of the tradeswomen at the IBEW Local 103 booth,” said Ramos. “She is now 10 years into her career and was really inspiring. I’m hoping she will be able to mentor me because we really hit it off. For the first time in my life, I really want something, and that is to join the IBEW and be a part of Local 103.”