Women in Carpentry on the Rise

Posted: Tue 3:18 PM, Sep 24, 2019

Updated: Tue 6:50 PM, Sep 24, 2019

SUAMICO, Wis (WBAY) According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of women in the trades is on the rise, accounting for nearly 10-percent of all jobs last year.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s carpentry program mirrors that trend.

Kate Fix and Hannah Clemens are at different stages in their lives, but both pursuing a dream.

“And as a child I was always drawn to construction and carpentry and here was this great opportunity that came to me, it is a blessing in disguise,” says Fix.

Until recently Fix had worked for decades as a warehouse manager for Shopko, but lost her job when the company went out of business.

For Clemens, a degree in the health care industry simply wasn’t fulfilling.

“I was recently placed on a new shift at the hospital and I just realized that that’s not what I want to do with the rest of my life, and it’s been my dream to be a finish carpenter,” says Clemens.

Four weeks into NWTC’s carpentry program, students are building a boardwalk and shelter at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve, and they aren’t the only women in the program.

“We started out with five in our program and it’s quite an increase from the last couple of years where we really didn’t have anybody,” says NWTC Carpentry Instructor Jeff Schlag.

And according to Schlag, the women have some advantages.

“They definitely have an eye for detail and they sure smoke the guys on that part of it,” says Schlag with a chuckle.

“The reason why women stay out of the trades is because one, they haven’t been exposed to it, and two, they don’t think they have the strength for it but if you think about how women work, they’re lifting and lugging continually because they have children, laundry, groceries, so they always have their hands full,” adds Fix.

As for working along side the guys, no problem.

“This day and age I don’t think we have a problem with that, I think everyone understands it’s the gender and we work with them side by side,” says Schlag.

“It’s like we’re a family here, so far so good and if anyone gives me any flack I give it right back,” adds Clemens with a smile.

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