Program Trains Women for Minn.'s Big Construction Projects

Posted at: 05/27/2013 5:36 PM
Updated at: 05/28/2013 6:23 AM
By: Mark Albert

Pam Burd is just five weeks away from reinventing herself.

"I was unemployed for a year and I figured it was a good time to do a career change," Burd recalled in a recent interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Laid off twice from warehouse distribution jobs, Burd looked to cut a new path in a new career.

"Construction just seemed to be the thing, seems to be quite the demand - especially for women right now," said Burd.

"We can, you know, climb ladders and crawl on roofs and we can do the same things as men can."

So Burd enrolled in the largest female-focused training program in Minnesota, called "Women Wear Hard Hats, Too" at Summit Academy in Minneapolis.

Construction training manager Gary Courtney said women are "in demand" to fill construction jobs.

"We literally cannot enroll enough women to meet the constant demand of the contractors," Courtney said.

The 20-week program teaches hands-on skills as well as resume building, interview training, and even how to spot sexual harassment in a male-dominated trade.

Burd is counting on a job in one of the blockbuster building projects now underway in the Twin Cities. From the St. Croix Crossing bridge, to the Central Corridor Light Rail, to the new Saint Paul Saints Ballpark, to the granddaddy of them all, the new Vikings stadium.

All of those projects must hire certain percentages of minorities, including women. The St. Croix Crossing project, which relies heavily on federal money, must work to meet a 16.7 percent participation goal for minority- and woman-owned businesses, also known as a disadvantage business enterprises.

The new Vikings stadium has a 20 percent goal; the Central Corridor Light Rail, due to be completed next year, has a 24 percent goal.

Tanishia Parker's grandmother did construction years ago. Now, another generation of Parkers will benefit from the trade.

"I'm a single mother," Parker explained. "I'm hoping to walk away with a really good job... something that I can work with to help build a career and a life for me and my child."

"I wanted a career instead of a job," she said.

Tuition for the program is $5,400 but the school says it uses grants to cover almost all of that so that no student has to take out a loan.

Click here to learn more about Summit Academy's Women Wear Hard Hats, Too program.