Leading The Way: SSC’s Women in Trades

March 15, 2022

Nationwide, women make up significantly less than 10% of the trades workforce, with some sources stating this number may be as low as 3%. According to Women in Facilities Management, recent studies found that men outnumber women nine to one in leadership roles in the facilities industry. At SSC, we believe in diversifying the facilities management field and encouraging women to pursue their passion for trade work.

To celebrate Women’s History Month and recognize the significant role that women play within SSC, we interviewed several women in trades who are making a huge impact on their accounts and in the industry. Read on to learn more about the unique experiences and perspectives that they bring to SSC in each of their roles. Interested in joining SSC as a skilled tradesworker? View open positions on our Careers Page.

Women in Trades: The Apprenticeship Program

SSC’s Apprenticeship Program allows associates to work in a trades position while completing the necessary education and training to obtain their license. The program is a four-year combination of on-the-job training and curriculum-based education that gives apprentices the skills and information they need to pass the licensing tests associated with their field of choice.

Shanna Graham is in her first year of the apprenticeship program as an HVAC Apprentice. Her interest in trades started when she was young, watching her father in his career as a journeyman electrician. She decided to pursue HVAC because of its expansive program opportunities. She shared that she “decided after looking over some of the trade career options that HVAC would be good because it’s kind of a mishmash of a lot of different trades: it focuses on air conditioning and refrigeration, but you still have to know a little bit of electricity and plumbing as well.”

When it comes to being a female apprentice, Shanna doesn’t let being a minority in the field hold her back. Shanna’s biggest piece of advice to women interested in pursuing a career in the trades is to be persistent:

“It’s a male-dominated field, so there’s, of course, going to be the initial ‘Oh, there’s a girl in the shop’ kind of shock at first. After a few weeks, that blows over.” She adds that it is important to listen and learn as much as you can and there will be people in the field who will try to help you out with advice and information. She says it’s helpful to “make sure it’s clear that you want this job, chose this job and that you are interested.”

Dora Lara, first-year Plumbing Apprentice, echoed similar sentiments. When it comes to entering the facilities industry, she emphasized that standing strong is most important, sharing that “it can be intimidating to enter a field where you usually only see men working, but [women shouldn’t] be intimidated. Just go for it. Sometimes I have to work twice as hard, but prove that you can do it.”

Bailey Mclaughlin, HVAC Project Manager and fourth-year apprentice with SSC, echoed similar sentiments, sharing that while there are challenges being young and female in the industry, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone has to be “for you” in order for you to be successful. She shared that “it doesn’t take everybody to do what you do; it only takes you. When you are good at what you do and enjoy it, that is when you will really excel.”

Growing & Learning with SSC

Each of these women hit the ground running and was ready to learn with SSC. Bailey is in the fourth year of her apprenticeship and has experienced many opportunities for growth within SSC.

“When I came to SSC, I was an HVAC Technician for about two years, and that’s where I started my apprenticeship, and since then, I have moved up into project management. SSC recognized a need and created this position for someone to move up into, and I was that person. There was a disconnect between technicians out in the field and office personnel, and we had a whole lot going on, and the university is just growing so much. With my experience and knowledge and my interest in the trades and learning, I am able to fill that gap well for SSC.”

It’s not unusual for SSC associates to stumble upon a new passion during their career. While Dora is a first-year plumbing apprentice, she has been with SSC for over 10 years. She began her career as a custodian, moved into a maintenance role, and was encouraged by her supervisor, Ruben Saldana, to continue pursuing knowledge in the trades. She is grateful for his influence and excited about the opportunities in her future.

“Ruben Saldana has been my mentor. He teaches me a lot, and he believes in me, and I like to have that support. I really enjoy working with him and learning from him. Being a woman and doing this, I know it will open doors. I know I am capable of bringing something different to the table wherever I go.”

Bailey is just ten months away from taking her licensing test, and has similar feelings on what her future looks like after she passes her licensing test:

“SSC has been a great place to grow and learn. There’s opportunity and room for advancement, and there’s so much support here. There are plenty of people willing to help you, and you’re never by yourself; whether it’s physically you can’t handle it or mentally you can’t figure it out because you’re still learning, there’s always support around you. Once I have my HVAC license, the sky is the limit; at least that’s the way I see it. I will be able to grow even more here and use the knowledge I have gained [throughout my apprenticeship] and apply it.”

We are committed to creating diverse teams at SSC, and proud to have many female associates paving the way for other women in the industry. For more stories like this, be sure to check out our news section and follow SSC on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Are you interested in joining the SSC apprenticeship program? Email [email protected] for more information. Already licensed? Check out our Careers Page to find open skilled trades positions near you.