Summit Academy OIC, a vocational training center north of downtown, has unveiled a new program for women interested in construction jobs called Women Wear Hard Hats Too.
Historically women have made up less than 3 percent of the construction workforce in the state. The governor’s office and Minnesota Department of Human Rights have created a new goal calling for women to make up 6 percent of the workforce on state-funded projects.
Summit’s program is unique in the Midwest. Ten women recently graduated from the 20-week program and 27 are currently enrolled.
For many of the women who pursue the program at Summit, they are pursuing a second career and are motivated by the high wages in construction, said Louis King, president of Summit.
“[The women] don’t mind getting physical. They don’t mind hard work,” King said.
The program has a 90 percent placement rate. Major projects that are draws for Summit graduates include the Central Corridor light rail project, construction at the University of Minnesota and state transportation projects.
The training consists of two parts — the first phase focuses on safety, blueprint reading and classroom lecture time; and the second part is hands-on training working on projects.
Cari Burmaster, 33, of North Minneapolis — one of the recent graduates — said she planned to go into carpentry or take a laborer position. She said coming to the training program at Summit was an automatic mood lifter. Male students are supportive of the female students as well.
“It’s such a melting pot of personalities,” she said.